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Poland ex-leaders go on trial for declaring martial law

[JURIST] The trial of former Polish leader General Wojciech Jaruzelski [personal website; CNN profile; JURIST news archive] and seven other Communist-era officials charged in connection with the 1981 declaration of martial law [Polish government backgrounder; MP3 audio] resumed Friday in Warsaw. A 500-page indictment accuses Jaruzelski of "organizing crimes of a military nature" and deprivation of freedom through internment, among other offenses. Jaruzelski's lawyers argue that martial law was necessary to prevent the Soviet Union from taking action against the pro-democracy Solidarity movement [official website]. After prosecutors from the Institute of National Remembrance [official website] presented the charges, the court adjourned until September 25, when the defendants are to enter pleas. AP has more. Reuters has additional coverage. The Warsaw Business Journal has local coverage.

A Polish appeals court ruling in June cleared the way for Jaruzelski's trial, overturning a lower court decision that halted proceedings [JURIST reports] while prosecutors gathered more evidence against other communist officials. Jaruzelski was previously tried for ordering troops to fire on striking ship workers [BBC report] in the 1970s, but that trial ended without a verdict. About 100 people are said to have died as a result of the martial law declaration and the subsequent arrests of Solidarity leaders, including Lech Walesa [BBC profile], and some 10,000 people were held in internment camps. The prosecutions are part of a plan for "moral renewal" [Washington Post report] pushed by current Polish President Lech Kaczynski [official websites] and his brother, former Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

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