Polish priest charged with slandering Jews

WARSAW — Controversial right-wing Polish priest Henryk Jankowski has delivered another anti-Semitic sermon in his church in the northern city of Gdansk.

His comments, reported by the Polish news agency PAP, came less than a week after he was formally charged with slandering Jews in an earlier sermon.

On Sunday, in a sermon in his church of St. Brigitta, Jankowski criticized the Polish government for giving in too much to the demands of Jews and the relatives of Holocaust victims.

"The Polish people, humiliated by that minority, have become the laughing stock of the international community," he said.

"We have the impression that for some time, the diplomatic policy, the president and the government of our country have been too conciliatory toward the requests of the Jews, and at the same time tolerate attacks against Poland," he said.

Former Polish President Lech Walesa, a close friend of Jankowski's, was at the church during the sermon, according to the report.

Jankowski, as Walesa's parish priest, was a key figure in the Solidarity union movement that challenged Communist rule in 1980.

Last week, Jankowski was formally charged with slandering Jews and people of Jewish origin in connection with a sermon he delivered in June 1995.

In that sermon, also attended by Walesa, Jankowski compared the Star of David to the Nazi swastika and the Communist hammer and sickle, adding that the Polish people should not allow those who owed secret allegiance to Israel or Russia to remain in government.

Walesa, who was Poland's president at the time, came under heavy criticism for not immediately condemning those remarks.

The charges were brought last week by the Gdansk Provincial Prosecutor's Office on the basis of complaints brought by Jewish groups and by two anti-racist organizations based in the southwestern Polish city of Wroclaw.

A spokesman for the Provincial Prosecutor's Office was quoted as saying that Jankowski could face up to three years in prison if convicted.

Jankowski in turn said the charges violated his rights of freedom of speech.

"It is a return to a communist totalitarianism," he told reporters in Gdansk. "As a Polish citizen, I feel persecuted by the Jewish minority."

"Poland has too little democratic experience," he said in a statement.

"The right to free judgment of politics, persons and history is an empty phrase," he said.

Jankowski's statements have drawn sharp criticism from various officials of the Polish Roman Catholic Church, including the secretary of the Polish Bishops Conference, Monsignor Tadeusz Pieronek.