Poland exhumes presidential plane crash victim

AP News
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Posted: Aug 29, 2011 10:58 AM
Poland exhumes presidential plane crash victim

Polish authorities have exhumed one of the people killed along with President Lech Kaczynski in a 2010 plane crash in Russia because his family said it didn't trust the Russian autopsy.

A military prosecutor, Zbigniew Rzepa, said the body of Zbigniew Wassermann, a former minister for secret services, was exhumed Monday at a Krakow cemetery.

He was killed along with 95 others, including the president, first lady, and scores of government and military officials, in the April 2010 plane crash near Smolensk, Russia.

Wassermann's daughter, Malgorzata Wassermann, said she demanded the exhumation because she believes the Russians falsified information on her father's autopsy report and that the document is "inauthentic." She noted that it referred to organs that her father had removed years earlier.

The military prosecutors stressed that the exhumation done due to doubts about statements in the autopsy, but said there were no doubts about Wassermann's identity.

The crash has strained ties between Poland and Russia, historic foes, and some relatives of the victims have expressed distrust in how Russia handled the aftermath of the disaster.

Polish media say other families of Smolensk victims also have doubts about their loved ones' autopsies and are considering requesting similar exhumations.

Some victims' relatives blame the government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk for allowing the Russians to take the lead in examining the bodies and securing the crash site. They remain highly distrustful of the Russians, and believe Moscow is trying to cover-up possible mistakes it made in the disaster. Some even believe the Russians brought the plane down intentionally.

The crash occurred in heavy fog, and a Polish government investigation says it was largely caused by poor pilot training and errors but that poor guidance from Russian air traffic controllers also contributed. A Russian investigation said Russians bear no responsibility for the crash.