Colonel Accused of Lying by One of His Subordinates
TORUN, Poland (AP) _ A secret police colonel who denied he urged the killing of a pro-Solidarity priest was confronted in court Monday by a subordinate, who stood and branded his commanding officer’s testimony ″in its fundamental points a lie.″
Col. Adam Pietruszka concluded his testimony in the trial in which he and three other security officers are charged in the abduction and slaying of the Rev. Jerzy Popieluszko last October.
Pietruszka said the priest’s killing was a political provocation that provided the Solidarity underground with a pretext for attacking the police as ″murderers.″
He claimed that before Popieluszko’s death, the priest had bowed to church and government pressure to leave Poland and accepted a scholarship to study at the Vatican.
After Pietruszka finished testifying, Capt. Grzegorz Piotrowski, who is charged with organizing the kidnapping, stood and accused his commanding officer of trying to deceive the court by denying any part in the abduction.
″Adam Pietruszka’s testimony is in its fundamental points a lie,″ Piotrowski said, his voice rising in anger.
″I have talked about a number of positive traits in Adam Pietruszka and want to add one more trait, which is cunning, which I would put at the top of the list if Pietruszka had succeeded in covering all his traces in this case,″ the captain said.
Polish authorities have issued 10 passes to Western correspondents to attend the trial, but denied access to The Associated Press. Reporters in the courtroom provided the AP with their notes. The AP has protested its exclusion.
The first witness to be called when the trial resumes Tuesday was expected to be Professor Maria Byrdy, who conducted the autopsy on the priest.
The 11-day-old trial has been running behind schedule, and court sources said a verdict was not expected until Jan. 28.
The three-day testimony of Pietruszka, the highest-ranking officer charged in the killing, failed to establish any clear links between the four defendants and senior government officials.
But his role in the affair was still not clear.
Pietruszka acknowledged Monday that, as a member of a special commission investigating the abduction, he had access to pre-trial testimony of the three other defendants until Nov. 2, the day of his arrest. The other defendants were arrested on Oct. 24-25.
A source involved in the case said outside the courtroom Monday that Piotrowski had named Pietruszka from the day of his arrest. The official said this raised questions about why authorities waited so long to arrest the colonel.
Before the trial began, it was believed that Pietruszka’s testimony would be central to determining whether there were grounds for official claims that the killing was a provocation aimed at Polish leader Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski.
Popieluszko was an outspoken supporter of the outlawed Solidarity free trade union, and government officials implied the killing was ordered by hardline elements in the Communist Party seeking to force Jaruzelski to crack down on dissent.
The decision to try four officers of the internal security apparatus, normally immune from criticism in the countries of the Soviet bloc, was a sign of the extent of concern by authorities about possible repercussions of the killing.
Pietruszka told the court that Piotrowski carried out the abduction with his two subordinates without his approval or knowledge and denied charges he attempted a cover-up.
Piotrowski claimed the colonel helped plan the abduction and gave the other defendants false assurances of immunity from prosecution by implying high- ranking officials backed the idea.
The captain testified he now realizes there was no high-level support.
Pietruszka told the court Monday that the killing was a provocation ″aimed against the policies of the government, the party and, in particular, its policy on the church.″
″As a result of this deed, the underground gained a pretext for slanderous statements that Interior Ministry employees were murderers,″ he said.
Pietruszka said he learned in October - although he said he was not sure whether it was before or after Popieluszko’s death - that the priest had decided to accept the scholarship for Rome.
The colonel said the head of the Interior Ministry’s department on the Roman Catholic Church, Gen. Zenon Platek, informed him he was told of the decision by Archbishop Bronislaw Dabrowski, the secretary of the Polish episcopate.
Popieluszko, 37, was abducted on a highway north of Torun Oct. 19. His body was pulled from a reservoir 30 miles south of Torun on Oct. 30.
Piotrowski, 33, and Lts. Waldemar Chmielewski, 29, and Leszek Pekala, 32, are charged with murdering Popieluszko. Pietruszka is charged with aiding them. The four face possible death penalties if convicted.