Un­well Walesa a no-show at Pol­ish anti-govt protest

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Around 2,000 peo­ple on Mon­day took part in an anti-govern­ment street protest in Warsaw, though Pol­ish free­dom icon Lech Walesa was un­able to at­tend be­cause of health prob­lems. The demon­stra­tion was held in op­po­si­tion to a monthly march car­ried out by gov­ern­ing Law and Jus­tice (PiS) party leader Jaroslaw Kaczyn­ski in mem­ory of his twin brother Lech, Poland’s pres­i­dent at the time, and 95 other peo­ple who were killed when the pres­i­den­tial jet crashed in Rus­sia in 2010. Op­po­nents say Kaczyn­ski uses the monthly event to mo­bi­lize sup­port­ers and at­tack cen­trist crit­ics.

The Pol­ish govern­ment is be­ing probed by the Euro­pean Union over per­ceived threats to the rule of law, and Walesa has pre­vi­ously ques­tioned whether Kaczyn­ski is seek­ing to turn Poland into “a dic­ta­tor­ship”. Sur­rounded by a heavy po­lice pres­ence, the anti-Kaczyn­ski pro­test­ers chanted, “Lech Walesa, free­dom, equal­ity, democ­racy” and placed white roses on the po­lice cars.

The 73-year-old No­bel peace laureate, who had been plan­ning to at­tend the protest, an­nounced Satur­day he would be a no-show af­ter he was taken to hospi­tal for tests re­lated to his high blood pres­sure. But fel­low com­mu­nist-era dis­si­dent Wla­dys­law Frasyniuk, who was ar­rested at an ear­lier anti-govern­ment protest, at­tended the demon­stra­tion. “The govern­ment is afraid. It has put up a fence be­tween it and the peo­ple,” Frasyniuk said at the protest, in ref­er­ence to the me­tal bar­ri­ers in­stalled along the av­enue lead­ing to the pres­i­den­tial palace.

Kaczyn­ski for his part ad­dressed his sup­port­ers-num­ber­ing a cou­ple of thou­sand­say­ing “we can’t hes­i­tate. We can’t quit the path we’re on: that of the re­con­struc­tion of Pol­ish democ­racy.” Ship­yard elec­tri­cian Walesa won the No­bel Peace Prize in 1983 for lead­ing Sol­i­dar­ity, the Soviet bloc’s only free trade union, and be­came Poland’s first demo­crat­i­cally elected pres­i­dent in 1990. His bold­ness in stand­ing up to the com­mu­nist regime is still widely re­spected, but his di­vi­sive pres­i­dency earned him scorn from many Poles.—AFP

WARSAW: Pro­test­ers hold­ing white roses demon­strate against monthly cer­e­mony mark­ing the Lech Kaczyn­ski’s pres­i­den­tial plane crash in Smolensk, in Warsaw, Poland.—AFP

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