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Polish special police arrest former interior minister

Polish special police arrest former interior minister

Masked special agents on Thursday arrested a former interior minister-turned-critic of Poland's conservative government, raising cries of protest from opposition parties who accuse Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski of using law enforcement against his opponents.
Officers from the Internal Security agency arrested Janusz Kaczmarek on suspicion he was tied to a leak of classified information, prosecutors said. Kaczmarek had become a vocal critic of the government, accusing it of spying on journalists and opposition politicians.
Two of Kaczmarek's associates, former national police chief Konrad Kornatowski and Jaromir Netzel, head of state-controlled PZU insurance company, were also taken into custody.
Federal prosecutor Dariusz Barski said an arrest warrant was also issued for Ryszard Krauze, head of Prokom software and listed by Forbes magazine's Polish edition as the country's eighth richest person with a fortune of 2.1 billion zlotys (US$750 million; euro550 million). They did not make public the specific charge or say what Krauze's connection to the case was.
The arrests deepened the political strife that has engulfed Poland since July, when the ruling coalition began to crumble. The country is getting ready for early elections expected in October.
Opposition politicians slammed the government, calling Thursday's arrests politically inspired acts aimed at silencing critics.
Roman Giertych, head of the ultra-Catholic League of Polish Families, a former coalition partner in Kaczynski's government, accused the prime minister of "using prosecutors and the secret services for political goals."
The prime minister denied there were any political motives behind the arrests.
"These (arrests) occurred in the normal run of the justice system, and placing them in any other context is groundless," he told reporters in Lubin, southwest Poland.
Kaczynski also sought to portray the arrests as a success in the fight against corruption _ his party's key campaign pledge when it won the 2005 elections.
His party, Law and Justice, is eager to tout its accomplishments to voters ahead of possible early elections. Parliament is slated to vote Sept. 7 on whether to dissolve, which would trigger new polls.
Kaczmarek has surfaced as a sharp critic of Kaczynski's government since his dismissal in August. He testified last week before the parliament's secret services commission, alleging the government used law enforcement to spy on journalists and dig for dirt on political opponents. His testimony was later read to all lawmakers in a closed-door session, many of whom called it "frightening" and clamored for a special parliamentary committee.
The Law and Justice party has blocked efforts to set up such a committee.
Kornatowski, a close associate who served as national police chief under the former minister, had been expected to testify on Friday in front of the secret services commission.
Poland's Law and Justice-led governing coalition collapsed after an investigation into alleged wrongdoing at the Agriculture Ministry last month resulted in the firing of the agriculture minister and Deputy Premier Andrzej Lepper, who headed one of the two junior coalition parties.
Poland's Anti-Corruption Office implicated Lepper after a six-month sting operation into alleged corruption at his ministry. Lepper has denied the allegations.
Authorities have been trying to track down the source of a leak that the agency's chief, Mariusz Kaminski, has said resulted in Lepper being warned at the last minute of the operation against him.
The Warsaw regional prosecutors office said Thursday's arrests were linked to the leak in the anti-corruption operation in the Agriculture Ministry, and Kaczmarek's lawyer, Wojciech Brochwicz, told reporters that prosecutors charged the former minister with hampering the investigation and submitting false testimony.


Updated : 2020-12-01 07:35 GMT+08:00