(AFP) – May 14, 2008
WARSAW (AFP) — A Polish court Wednesday ordered prosecutors investigating the country's last communist president, General Wojciech Jaruzelski, to question top Cold War-era figures including former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
The Warsaw tribunal acted on a request by defence lawyers for Jaruzelski and two co-accused on trial over their regime's 1981 declaration of martial law.
Besides Gorbachev, the court said prosecutors must question British ex-prime minister Margaret Thatcher, as well as former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt and Polish-born Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to then-US president Jimmy Carter.
Jaruzelski, now 84, was leader of communist Poland and the ruling Polish United Workers' Party in the 1980s.
His co-accused are former party boss Stanislaw Kania and ex-interior minister Czeslaw Kiszczak.
Since communism fell in Poland in 1989, Jaruzelski has faced years of court battles.
In April last year he was formally charged with "communist crimes" for declaring martial law on December 13, 1981 in a bid to stamp out a 17-month challenge to his regime from Solidarity, the independent trade union led by Lech Walesa.
Jaruzelski faces up to 10 years in jail if he is found guilty of "having led an armed organisation of a criminal character".
The general was charged by the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), a body created in 1998 to prosecute crimes dating from both the communist era and Nazi Germany's World War II occupation of Poland.
The IPN said it would appeal against the ruling that it must question the high-profile witnesses before the trial can begin.
Earlier this year, Jaruzelski told a hearing that he assumed "full responsibility for imposing martial law".
Thousands of arrests followed the 1981 crackdown and dozens of people were killed in clashes.
Jaruzelski maintains that he chose martial law as the lesser of two evils, claiming that if Solidarity had brought about the collapse of communism in Poland, a bloody Soviet military intervention would have followed.
Jaruzelski's attempt to crush Solidarity was ultimately a failure. The movement went underground, and in 1989 the general struck a power-sharing deal with it, sounding the death knell of his regime.
Jaruzelski remained president until 1990, when Poles elected Walesa in the country's first free national vote.
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