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Poland's former president, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, went on trial Friday, along
Poland's former president, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, went on trial Friday, along with other ex-communist officials, for imposing martial law in 1981 which resulted in over 90 deaths across the country.

The 85-year-old Jaruzelski, who faces 10 years in prison if found guilty, was in court to hear the formal charges of committing communist crimes, and leading "an organized criminal group of a military character" read out against him. He was formally charged in March 2006.

The other defendants include 82-year-old Czeslaw Kiszczak, the former interior minister and 80-year-old Stanislaw Kania, first secretary of the Polish united workers party. All the defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Jaruzelski was widely criticized for imposing martial law in Poland on December 13, 1981, in an attempt to smother the growing Solidarity movement led by Lech Walesa. The move led to troops being deployed on the country's streets and the mass arrest and subsequent imprisonment of activists. In 1990 after Jaruzelski retired as Polish leader, Walesa succeeded him.

Jaruzelski has argued that the introduction of martial law was the "lesser evil" and that his actions prevented an invasion of Poland by the Soviet Union.

Jaruzelski, who also served as Poland's defense minister, was involved in the military crackdown in Prague in 1968, and in the early 1970s brutally suppressed strikes by Polish workers in major coastal cities across Poland.

Peter Raina, a well-known German historian and Jaruzelski's biographer, who was in the court, said the trial was without doubt "politically motivated."

"The charges of 'communist crimes' are totally groundless. Poland has never been called the Polish Communist Republic. In accordance with the Constitution, it was the People's Republic of Poland," he said.

He added that "the Polish Constitution allowed the imposition of martial law."


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