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Poland Protest Leader Sentenced

November 27, 1999

WARSAW, Poland (AP) _ A regional court in southern Poland sentenced a radical farmer to 15 months in prison Friday for organizing the dumping of 500 tons of grain from rail cars to protest imports.

The farmer, Marian Zagorny, also was ordered to pay $47,600 in damages to the Polish state railway.

The sentence was tougher than the one-year prison term sought by the prosecution.

``I would have understood the spilling of a symbolic amount of grain, but not the waste of such important value,″ said the presiding judge, Miroslaw Plysa.

In July 1998, about 200 farmers from the Solidarity trade union opened up rail freight cars waiting at the Polish-Czech border and spilled about 500 tons of grain imported from Hungary.

They were demanding tougher restrictions and duties on imports of cheap grain. They also accused the Solidarity-dominated government of not keeping a promise to regulate grain prices to protect their produce.

Pressured by repeated protests, the government curbed imports and increased price supports for some domestic farm products. Analysts say the action contributed to a weakening of the Polish currency this year and to higher-than-expected inflation.

Zagorny’s trial was held in Jastrzebie Zdroj, 210 miles south of Warsaw.

The verdict and sentencing are subject to appeal.

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