Polish official with questionable murder theory honored

WARSAW, Poland (AP) – Poland’s President Andrzej Duda on Friday awarded the country’s highest civilian honor to a pro-democracy communist-era fighter recently accused of tampering with evidence while investigating a presidential plane crash in Russia killing 96 prominent Poles.

Duda said he has awarded the Order of the White Eagle to Antoni Macierewicz, 74, for his contribution to Poland’s sovereignty and democratic change, and for his service to the country.

In the 1970s, Macierewicz co-founded a dissident organization, the Workers’ Defense Committee, or KOR, which laid the foundations for the nationwide Solidarity movement that overthrew communist rule in Poland in 1989. Macierewicz was repeatedly imprisoned for his activities.

The small ceremony at which Duda presented him with the award took place 46 years after KOR was founded. The other two co-founders, Miroslaw Chojecki and Piotr Naimski, were also given the honor.

Macierewicz served as defense minister from 2015-2018 and is a close associate of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the head of the Polish Law and Justice party.

He was appointed head of a special government commission investigating the 2010 crash that killed Kaczynski’s twin brother, then-President Lech Kaczynski, and 95 other Poles.

Macierewicz insists the presidential plane crash was a planned assassination in Moscow. A recent report by Polish news channel TVN24 alleged that Macierewicz and his commission manipulated and concealed evidence that did not support the murder theory.

Earlier, a professional aviation incidents committee said the crash under adverse conditions was the result of errors by the crew and control tower at Russia’s Smolensk airport.

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