Court: Walesa must apologize to Poland’s ruling party head

Jaroslaw Kaczynski

FILE – In this March 13, 2017 file photo, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice, leaves after a news conference in Warsaw, Poland. The 70-year-old Kaczynski said Sunday July 14, 2019, that he plans to step down at some point to make way for a new party leader in 2023. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski, File)

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WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A Polish appeals court upheld a lower court’s verdict in a slander case and ruled Monday that pro-democracy fighter and former president Lech Walesa must apologize to the leader of the country’s right-wing ruling party.

Law and Justice party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Poland’s most powerful politician, sued Walesa for blaming him on social media for the 2010 plane crash in Smolensk, Russia that killed President Lech Kaczynski, Kaczynski’s twin brother, and 95 others.

The Gdansk Provincial Court in December ruled Walesa had made “heavy accusations” without evidence to back them up and ordered him to apologize to Kaczynski on the radio, in a personal letter and other formats. The provincial court rejected a demand for Walesa to pay 30,000 zlotys ($8,000) to a charity.

Both men appealed. Walesa said he also would appeal Monday’s decision to Poland’s Supreme Court and “if need be,” to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.

In one of the disputed posts written during 2015-2017, Walesa alleged that Kaczynski was “guided by bravado” and during a phone conversation with his traveling brother pushed for the plane to land at the poorly equipped Smolensk airport despite heavy fog.

Kaczynski blames the crash on Poland’s government at the time, which was led by another foe, current European Council president Donald Tusk, alleging it neglected the president’s security.

The Law and Justice party leader and Walesa have a long history of feuding.

Kaczynski, 70, and his twin served as aides to Walesa, the founder of the Solidarity pro-democracy movement of the 1980s that led to the peaceful end of communism in Poland, after he was elected president in 1990. They soon had a falling out for reasons that have not been made clear.

The Kaczynski brothers alleged that Walesa had been a communist collaborator codenamed “Bolek,” which Walesa denies.

Walesa, 75, is strongly critical of Kaczynski’s right-wing party, alleging Law and Justice and its government are a threat to democracy.

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