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The Oleksy Case in Poland

Prague, April 23 (RFE/RL) - Poland's military prosecutors yesterday dropped an espionage case against former Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy. The prosecutors said they had failed to find direct and definitive evidence to press criminal charges.

But the decision stops short of fully exonerating this former communist functionary turned top social democratic politician. Oleksy's case is certain to remain a contentious issue in Polish politics.

The case was launched last December, when Interior Minister Andrzej Milczanowski formally accused Prime Minister Oleksy in a speech to the Sejm (parliament's lower house) of having been during many years (from 1983 until early 1995) knowingly maintaining contacts with, and passing sensitive state information to, Soviet and later Russian intelligence agents.

The accusation was based on evidence gathered by Polish intelligence officers. Milczanowski demanded that the military prosecutors investigate the case. milczanowski resigned day later.

Oleksy denied the charges, although he admitted having frequently met Russian diplomats Vladimir Alganov and Grogori Iakimichin, who later proved to be intelligence officers. Oleksy said that the charges resulted from a conspiracy of Polish intelligence officers directed against him, and were but a political provocation mounted by former President Lech Walesa and his supporters within the service.

But Oleksy was forced to resign the office in January. He subsequently was unanimously elected as head of the post-communist social-democratic party.

Yesterday, Colonel Slawomir Gorzkiewicz, a deputy military prosecutor in Warsaw in charge of the case, told a press conference that he decided to close the case "as a result of finding no crime."

Gorzkiewicz said that the evidence provided by the counter-intelligence service had been circumstantial "meager...ambiguous and raising a number of justified doubts." He went on to say that "two people in the world know the truth about this matter for sure: Jozef Oleksy and Vladimir Alganov, nobody else." He also insinuated that the allegations against Oleksy might have been prepared by Russian intelligence itself.

Reacting to this statement, Milczanowski told the Warsaw newspaper "Gazeta Wyborcza" today that in his opinion the evidence in the case had been sufficient for pressing charges and sending the matter to court. He also ruled out any clear Russian interference.

Milczanowski's view was supported by former head of Polish counter-intelligence Colonel Konstanty Miodowicz, who told the same newspaper that the evidence was sufficient to prosecute.

Oleksy told a press conference in Warsaw today that the prosecutors' decision "only confirmed that I am innocent." He went on to say that the case itself was but an attempt to destroy the social-democratic party and that "those responsible did not hide those goals."

The decision has already prompted a series of predictably diverse political reactions.

Izabella Sierakowska, ranking social-democratic politician and leader of post-communist labor organization, said yesterday that Milczanowski and "others who were involved" should be brought to court to face charges of willful defamation of Oleksy's character.

Lech Walesa intimated in response to questions by press reporters that the decision reflected the interests of the government dominated by the post-communists, and warned that the current opposition would "return to this matter after the parliamentary elections" next year. Other opposition leaders tended to share this view.

Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz said in a statement released yesterday that he would demand that all evidence related to the case be made public. But he said today in response to reporters' questions that he was opposed to the dismissal from the service of those officers responsible for the investigation of the Oleksy case.

President Aleksander Kwasniewski, whom Oleksy succeeded as head of the post-communist social-democratic party, has been silent.

But the Oleksy case is certain to affect politics in Poland for some time to come. This is because it concerns one of the most important Polish politicians, a man who in the minds of many personifies those former communist and pro-Soviet loyalists who now present themselves as convinced democrats and ardent Polish patriots. The opposition is certain to put this change to doubt.

This is also because the case has touched at the most sensitive and important element of the nascent institutional structure of the democratic government.It affects the stability and authority of the government, striking at its very organizational heart.

And it puts into question the integrity and loyalty of the entire Polish security organization.

Within days, a special parliamentary committee is to rule on whether the security agencies acted correctly in conducting their investigation.

The committee's initial finding, made public several weeks ago, was that there had been no conspiracy by the services, nor had there been an attempt to fabricate any evidence against Oleksy.

The next parliamentary elections are likely to take place in the spring or summer months of next year.