Poland Re-Opens Investigation into Murder of Priest

into the 1984 murder of Priest Rev. Jerzy Popieluszko, who publicly opposed Communism.  

The murder of the Priest by secret police officers outraged Poland, a predominantly Roman Catholic nation. In 1985, four officers were sentenced to prison terms of 12 to 25 years for killing Popieluszko, who played a major role in the Solidarity movement, which eventually forced the Communist regime out of office.

Observers familiar with what was seen as a show trial said that all but one were later freed under amnesties, and that the man considered to be the main perpetrator is expected to be released next week.

In a statement released Friday, the Government agency known as The National Remembrance Institute, said it had opened a new, independent investigation to bring to trial any communist-era official linked to the killing, and not indicted so far.   

The high profile case is part of the daily work of The Institute, which was set up to open investigations into political persecution and murders and to make public Communist era secret police files.

Prosecutors already began pursuing charges against higher-ranking officers in the case, including the former Deputy Head of the Interior Ministry Security Service, Wladyslaw Ciaston, The Associated Press news agency reported.

Ciaston is being retried for his alleged involvement in the killing, after he was acquitted in 1992 for lack of evidence. An appeals court later ordered a retrial, and analysts say that if convicted, Ciaston could face life in prison.

These developments are seen as part of Poland's effort to seek justice for crimes committed during Communism, which collapsed in 1989.  Ten years later Poland became a member of NATO, along with Hungary and the Czech Republic.   It hopes to join the European Union, which has set strict guidelines for Reforms in the Justice system and other areas of democratization.

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