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Poland Commemorates 25th Anniversary of Crackdown by Communist-Era Authorities

Poland is holding a series of solemn ceremonies and re-enactments marking the 25th anniversary of the deadly nationwide crackdown by communist-era authorities.

Polish Communist Party leader General Wojciech Jaruzelski declared martial law on December 13, 1981, banning the independent trade union Solidarity. Authorities interned thousands of Poles, including Solidarity leader Lech Walesa and current President Lech Kaczynski. Clashes with security forces left nearly 100 others dead.

Just after midnight Wednesday, President Kaczynski began the day of commemoration in the western city of Wroclaw, where he honored pro-democracy activists who opposed the communist regime. He later gave what Polish radio called a history lesson to high school students on the crackdown, calling it a national tragedy.

Polish prosecutors in March charged General Jaruzelski in connection with the crackdown.

Legal proceedings against the 83-year-old general have stalled over the past decade, as courts dropped charges against him in the shooting deaths of protesting strikers. He has insisted his actions were necessary to prevent a Soviet invasion of Poland in response to the rise of Solidarity.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.