Former anti-communist dissident indicted for criminal defamation of Polish soldiers

A former anti-communist dissident, who is now an outspoken critic of the current government, will face trial for criminal defamation after being indicted by prosecutors for calling soldiers posted to the border with Belarus in response to a migration crisis “trash” and a “pack of dogs”.

The case against Władysław Frasyniuk – who in the 1980s was a leading figure in the Solidarity movement that helped bring down the communist regime – was brought by two government ministers. If found guilty, he could face up to a year in prison.

The remarks in question came during an interview with broadcaster TVN24 in August, during the early stages of a crisis that has seen tens of thousands of people, mostly from the Middle East, try to cross into Poland from Belarus with the help of the Belarusian authorities.

The Polish government had deployed soldiers to help border guards prevent illegal crossings. One standoff in particular, involving a large group of Afghans camped out on the Belarusian side of the border, had drawn widespread attention.

Afghan migrants camp on Polish-Belarusian border amid political standoff

Referring to that situation, Frasyniuk described the soldiers as “a pack of dogs that surrounded innocent, weak people”, adding that this is not the way a soldier should act.

“They are simply trash,” he continued. “These soldiers are not serving Poland, but are spitting on all the values that their father and grandfathers fought for.”

After broadcasting the interview with Frasyniuk, TVN24 issued a statement in which it condemned the words of its guest and admitted that the interviewer should have reacted more “firmly and critically”. The station added that it opposes any forms of aggression, including verbal, in public life.

Following Frasyniuk’s remarks, the defence minister, Mariusz Błaszczak, announced that he was issuing a notification to prosecutors about the potential crime of “insulting soldiers of the Polish army”. A deputy justice minister, Marcin Romanowski, also notified prosecutors, reports Interia.

As a result, Frasyniuk was charged in November. He pleaded not guilty, and in a statement on social media said that “the government is responsible for violating the rule of law and human rights” and for “the torture and death of refugees on our eastern border”.

Last month, Human Rights Watch accused both Poland and Belarus of “shared responsibility for abuse” of migrants at their border. The Polish government, however, argues that it has an obligation to prevent illegal crossings, and that it provides all necessary humanitarian, medical and legal aid to those who cross.

Yesterday, a spokeswoman for the Warsaw district prosecutors’ office announced that an indictment against Frasyniuk was submitted to court just before Christmas.

According to prosecutors, the words Frasyników used in reference to Polish soldiers “insulted and degraded them in the eyes of public opinion”  and exposed them to a threat of “loss of public trust”.

Earlier this month, in a separate case, prosecutors charged a Polish journalist for the same offence after he likened Polish border guards to the Nazi SS for their treatment of migrants and refugees on the Belarus border.

Journalist charged with criminal defamation for likening Polish border guards to Nazis

Main image credit: Irek Dorozanski / DWOT (under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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