Officer who killed Polish dissident during Communist era sentenced to 4 years prison

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Friday, May 30, 2008

A Warsaw court has sentenced a communist-era policeman to four years in prison for the 1983 killing of a young dissident, overturning a history of four acquittals in the same case over the years.

Ireneusz Kościuk, a former member of communist Poland's infamous ZOMO riot police units, was found guilty of the fatal beating of 19-year old Grzegorz Przemyk, the son of dissident poet Barbara Sadowska and a promising talent in his own rights. Przemyk was beaten at a central Warsaw police station after being stopped while celebrating his high school leaving exams. Przemyk's case became a symbol of resistance to communism in Poland and his funeral turned into a massive demonstration against communist authorities.

The verdict pleased Przemyk's family and friends, who had seen the case intentionally covered up by the communist regime and then retried several times due to stonewalling by the suspects. Famously, former Interior Minister Czesław Kiszczak was recorded as ordering prosecutors in the original investigation to only focus on the paramedics who finally delivered Przemyk to the hospital, and to ignore any leads related to the policemen. Though happy with the verdict, the victim's father, Leopold Przemyk, believes justice has not yet been served.

"Only the sword has been punished, and not the hand that held it," he said after the court announced its decision.

Presiding judge Monika Niezabitowska-Nowakowska said that the verdict was made possible by new evidence that had not been known to the courts that had acquitted Kościuk in the past. However, she said the beating could not be treated as a communist crime, since the policemen could not have known about Przemyk's dissident views, and that the beating they gave him was not politically motivated.