WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Former Polish president Lech Walesa on Friday, Feb. 19, denied claims that he collaborated with communist-era secret police for money in the 1970s.
The allegations against Walesa, who led the Solidarity movement that paved the way for the ouster of communism and rise of democracy in Poland in the 1980s and 1990s, are not new, but it’s perhaps not surprising that they’re being resurrected by the ruling Law and Justice party.
The party, which took office three months ago, has embarked on sweeping changes and is seeking to discredit its critics, among them Walesa. He faults the party for rushing legislation, installing loyalists in a special court and in state-run media, and planning more legislation that would strengthen its power.
He has a decades-long feud with Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the Law and Justice leader, who says the communists preserved influence in Poland after their 1989 ouster and that he intends to expose the facts.
Walesa, 72, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, went online Friday, Feb. 19, to deny allegations leveled by the head of a state historical institute based on documents that recently surfaced. The institute head says the veracity of the documents still needs to be confirmed.
“I did not collaborate with the (secret security). I never took money and never made any spoken or written report on anyone,” Walesa wrote on a blog. “I trust that truth will defend itself.”
The National Remembrance Institute says that documents seized Tuesday, Feb. 16, from the home of the last communist interior minister, the late Gen. Czeslaw Kiszczak, include a commitment to collaborate that is signed with Walesa’s name and codename “Bolek,” and also reports and receipts for money dating from 1970-76.
The documents are to be made available to the public next week.
Walesa said that during many raids on his home and workplaces, the secret police seized handwritten notes that could now be wrongly presented as proof against him.
In 1970, Walesa was a workers’ protest leader at the Gdansk shipyard but in 1976 was fired from his job. In 1980, he joined and led another protest at the shipyard that grew into Poland’s nationwide Solidarity movement, which eventually ousted the communists, and provoked a chain reaction across the region.
But Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski says the circumstances need to be clarified, with the help of Walesa’s files.
They can “shed light on how an independent Poland was created” and may potentially show that Walesa and other dissidents were “puppets” and that the “free Poland project was directed” from the outside, Waszczykowski said.
The documents, if verified, could potentially undermine the image that Poles and the world have of the people who brought an end to communism in Poland.
The leaders of the Law and Justice party, some of whom were lower-ranking Solidarity activists, say they need to introduce “good change” in Poland because it is suffering from divisions and inequalities that are the legacy of an imperfect and corrupt deal that Solidarity struck with the communist authorities in 1989, that eventually paved the way for democracy.
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.