Polish court: Communist leader too sick for trial

AP News
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Posted: Jul 01, 2011 7:38 AM
Polish court: Communist leader too sick for trial

Poland's last communist leader Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski cannot attend his two ongoing trials due to ill health, putting the future of the proceedings in doubt, a court spokesman said Friday.

The 87-year-old retired General is among the defendants on trial over whether his decision to impose martial law in Poland in 1981 over protests by the Solidarity freedom movement was illegal. He also faces a separate trial over the killing of 44 protesters by the army in 1970, when was defense minister. Both trials have dragged on for years.

Court-appointed doctors said Jaruzelski, who suffers from cancer, is too ill to attend a court sessions for at least 12 months, said Warsaw Provincial Court spokesman Wojciech Malek.

Malek said this could mean "revolutionary" changes in the ongoing trials. The trials could either be suspended for the year, or if doctors consent, Jaruzelski's case could be separated from the other defendants' in a new trial.

Both trials have been ridden by delays because of procedural battles and illness among the judges and defendants.

According to polls, the majority of Poles are not eager to see the infirm Jaruzelski behind bars. Some consider Jaruzelski a traitor because of the martial law crackdown that left 100 people dead, but many others consider him a tragic figure caught in a political struggle with the then-Soviet Union.

Jaruzelski argues that martial law saved Poland from a military intervention by Moscow, which felt that its political grip on Poland was threatened by the massive Solidarity freedom movement.

Relegated to the underground, Solidarity weathered the coup and eventually led a peaceful transition of power from communism to democracy in 1989.

Jaruzelski denies allowing troops to fire during protests in 1970.

Jaruzelski was recently diagnosed with cancer and has undergone chemotherapy. He has continued living at his home, and last year doctors allowed him to attend only two hours of a session at a time.

Jaruzelski has said he believes his trials will end due to "biological reasons," implying he will die before verdicts are reached.