Walesa vows to sue authors over informer claims

POLAND: HUNDREDS OF Poles queued up yesterday for copies of a new book claiming the country's anti-communist leader Lech Walesa…

POLAND:HUNDREDS OF Poles queued up yesterday for copies of a new book claiming the country's anti-communist leader Lech Walesa was a secret police informer, claims the former president denies.

By noon, the first print run of the 700-page volume had sold out - and Mr Walesa vowed to sue the authors for libel.

Rumours about Mr Walesa, a 1983 Nobel laureate and postwar Poland's first democratically elected president, first surfaced in 1992.

Eight years later, Poland's vetting court ruled that he had never worked as an informer.

The book's authors, officials at the Institute of National Memory - custodians of communist-era files - claim to have found new evidence that Walesa informed to the secret police (SB) under the codename "Bolek" while working at the Gdansk shipyards, and later removed evidence while president.

"There's positive proof that Lech Walesa was registered with the secret police under that code name between 1970 and 1976. 'Bolek' informed on more than 20 people who were later harassed or oppressed," said co-author Salomir Cenckiewicz. "We do not want to destroy the legend of Walesa. We only intend to amend his biography."

The book is the latest salvo in a long-running battle between Walesa and the Kaczynski brothers over Poland's negotiated transition to democracy.

Solidarity co-founder Walesa became a national hero after leading the 1980 strike at the Gdansk shipyards, which led to the round-table discussions with communist leaders.

President Lech Kaczynski and his brother Jarolsaw, former prime minister, are convinced that Mr Walesa only agreed the path of transition because he was being blackmailed by the SB.

Mr Walesa insists the files are forgeries: he admits talking to communist authorities in the 1970s but denies ever working for them.

As he points out, his signature is nowhere to be found in the documents.

"Even though the communist secret service failed with me, it managed to convince such amateur historians and now they are chasing me," said Mr Walesa.

He warned the book's authors: "Somebody's lying here, and it is not me. You will see me in court over this and you will lose."

Even if the allegations are true, Mr Walesa's supporters say his later achievements would more than make up for a collaboration ended by the secret police four years before the shipyard strike.

Some 71 per cent of Poles say they do not believe Mr Walesa was an SB informant.

The former president has the backing of leading public figures and historians, who point out that the SB files are incomplete and riddled with forgeries created to discredit enemies of the regime.