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Former Interior Minister Acquitted over 1981 shootings

Warsaw, July 29 (RFE/RL) -- A Warsaw court today acquitted former Polish Interior Minister Czeslaw Kiszczak of charges he contributed to nine deaths when he allowed police to fire on miners protesting the imposition of martial law in December, 1981.

Angered observers in the Warsaw Provincial Court greeted Kiszczak's acquittal with shouts of "Shame!" and "Down with communists!" They were cleared from the court.

The three-judge panel said that authorizing the police to fire was not the same as giving them an order, and there was no proof that Kiszczak's action directly led to the deaths.

On December 13, 1981, when martial law was imposed against the nationwide Solidarity Union movement, Kiszczak, anticipating protests, signed a coded message allowing riot police to fire at protesters.

Three days later, nine miners were killed at the Wujek mine near Katowice. Twenty-five other miners were injured in a clash at another mine in Silesia when police stormed both facilities and opened fire on workers gathered in opposition to martial law.

Kiszczak, who had pleaded no guilty, has accused prosecutors of using the almost two-year trial to take "political revenge" and "sow hatred" against former communists. After today's hearing, Kiszczak, 70, told reporters there could be no other verdict.

The prosecution said it will appeal the verdict.