WARSAW (Reuters) - President Andrzej Duda, an ally of Poland’s new euroskeptic government, accused Lech Walesa on Tuesday of collaborating with the communist-era secret services, further stoking a revived debate about the former pro-democracy leader’s past.
Poland’s state history institute said this month it had confirmed as genuine some documents offered to it by the widow of a communist interior minister suggesting Walesa, ex-leader of the Solidarity trade union movement that toppled communism in 1989, had been an informant for the regime in the 1970s.
Walesa, 72, has said he will defend himself in court against the allegations.
“I am sorry that Mr. President Lech Walesa was not able at the right time to bring himself to make a gesture to Poles ... Just speak out and tell the truth,” Duda told reporters from the Polish online news website wp.pl.
“I can express my personal sadness as a person who in the past definitely supported Lech Walesa and who respects Lech Walesa as a president,” he added.
Walesa, who served as Poland’s first post-communist president from 1990 to 1995 and retains influence in Poland, acknowledged years ago he had signed a commitment to be an informant for the communist security organs but insisted he never did anything to carry it out. A special court exonerated him in 2000, saying it found no proof of collaboration.
While insisting the new documents are authentic, the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) has not been able to confirm that Walesa signed them or whether any signatures were forged, as was sometimes the case in secret service files.
The IPN is close to Poland’s new ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS), and the new allegations against Walesa have surfaced two months after he accused PiS of seeking to undermine Polish democracy since it won a parliamentary majority in an election last October.
Walesa’s relations with the leader of PiS, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, have long been acrimonious.
Kaczynski and his twin brother Lech, who died in a plane crash in 2010 when he was president of Poland, had been Solidarity members but fell out with Walesa in the 1990s over jobs.
Critics accuse Kaczynski and his party of waging a vendetta against Walesa, a man still revered by many Poles as a national hero, and say this is in keeping with what they see as an intolerant and divisive mindset in the new government.
PiS rejects such charges and says it is upholding democracy and transparency.
Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said the documents authenticated by the IPN raised the possibility that the communists had guided Poland’s transition to democracy.
“Mr. President Walesa could have been a controlled puppet and this should be clarified,” he told the TVN channel.
Reporting by Marcin Goclowski; additional reporting by Pawel Florkiewicz; Editing by Gareth Jones