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Poland court rules on riot police convictions for 1981 protest killings

[JURIST] A Polish appellate court Tuesday overturned the conviction of one riot police officer found guilty for the shooting deaths of nine coal miners during a 1981 protest, but affirmed the convictions of 14 other officers convicted in relation to the same incident. The coal miners were protesting the imposition of martial law [Polish government backgrounder] and the jailing of Solidarity [group website] labor movement leaders by the Communist government of General Wojciech Jaruzelski [official website]. The 15 riot police said that they only shot over the heads of the protesters, but a court sentenced [JURIST report] them in 2007 to between two and one-half years and 11 years in prison. Tuesday's ruling, which cannot be appealed, reduced the 11-year sentence of one officer to six years, increased the sentences of 13 other officers by one year each, and remanded the case of a final officer. AP has more.

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] in 2007, saying that the government could neither require citizens to make such declarations nor publish a list of alleged Soviet collaborators.

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