It is not the first time Lech Walesa, Poland's revered first president of the post-Communist era, has been accused of being a spy for the old regime, having been cleared by a court in 2000. But new accusations yesterday that the now 72-year-old was a paid informant for the Communist authorities in the 1970s, before he founded the Solidarity movement, included potentially damning official documents.
Still for leading liberal newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, the whole thing is "conspiracy nonsense" on the part of the ruling Law and Justice Party and its leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, a man with "a long-standing hatred" of Walesa.
The papers were discovered earlier this week, at the home of the last Communist-era Interior Minister, the late Gen. Czeslaw Kiszczak. Among the 279 pages of documents incriminating the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, there is evidence that he agreed to provide information to the Communist authorities under the codename "Bolek," and that he received money for it.
Antoni Dudek, the leading historian at the National Remembrance Institute — a state body that investigates Nazi and Communist-era crimes — said the documents were authentic. But he also said that the evidence would do little to harm Walesa's reputation, unless there was proof that the former Polish leader had continued to work for the Communist regime after he founded the anti-Communist Solidarity movement in 1980.
"There can exist no documents coming from me," Walesa said in a written message from Venezuela, where he is traveling. "I will prove that in court."
For journalist Jaroslaw Kurski, the documents offer a "deeper dimension" of Walesa. They show "a man overcoming his own weakness" and who "first triumphed over himself, then the torturers who want to break him, and finally over Communism in Poland," he writes.
In an interview in French daily Le Monde, which took place just before the new accusations came to light, Walesa said that the current government "needs an enemy ... and wants to have Kaczynski take my place as the top symbol in the battle against Communism."