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Poland court sentences 15 riot police for 1981 martial law protest killings

[JURIST] A Polish court Thursday sentenced 15 riot police officers involved in the 1981 shooting deaths of nine coal miners, handing down sentences ranging from eleven years to at least two and half years in prison. The coal miners were protesting a martial law [Polish government backgrounder; JURIST report] crackdown on dissent by the beleaguered Communist government of General Wojciech Jaruzelski. The crackdown, prompted by the surging popularity of the Solidarity labor movement and alleged fears of a Soviet invasion of the country, is said to have resulted in the death of approximately 100 people. The convictions come after years of failed prosecutions against those deemed responsible for the shootings, which had previously been plagued by a lack of evidence.

The prosecutions were part of a plan for "moral renewal" [Washington Post report] pushed by Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his brother, Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski [official websites] which has sought to purge police and military intelligence agencies and require civil servants, academics and others to disclose whether they served as police informants [JURIST report] prior to 1989. The country's Constitutional Tribunal struck down the proposed disclosure law [JURIST report] last month, saying that the government could neither require citizens to make such declarations nor publish a list of alleged Soviet collaborators. Reuters has more.

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