Senior Polish officials said today that some persons interned under martial-law regulations may be brought to trial, a move that appears chiefly to affect members of the dissident Committee for Social Self-Defense, known as KOR.
The suggestion that amnesty for political crimes committed before last December's military crackdown may not apply to all internees was made at a press conference here for foreign journalists and reinforced by Poland's minister of justice. Officials said that the legal status of around 100 of the internees had been changed from detention to arrest, which means they could now face criminal proceedings.
The government's chief press spokesman, Jerzy Urban, refused to say which of the 4,000 internees still in custody face legal charges. But he mentioned creation of an illegal political party as one category of crime not covered by the amnesty that was announced at the same time as martial law.
Legal proceedings on this basis could be taken against a number of detained activists of the Solidarity trade union or their sympathizers and advisers. Those most at risk would appear to include members of the dissident group KOR, who announced the formation of "self-management discussion clubs" last November.
Earlier the military government had drawn a sharp distinction between "internment," which was described as an administrative measure to isolate people potentially dangerous to the state and "arrest"--a legal sanction against lawbreakers.
Questioned by reporters after today's press conference, the minister of justice, Sylwester Zawadzki, said it was possible to envisage the opening up of new criminal investigations against any of the detainees.
The amnesty announced on Dec. 13 applies to "illegal acts involving attacks on the state's international alliances, deriding the state system and its organs, attacks and assaults on officials, damage and illegal use of social property, incitement to lawbreaking, and propagation of false information." The proclamation said penal responsibility for these crimes would be annulled if the acts were committed "for political reasons" or "were due to social conflicts resulting from strikes or protest actions."
At today's press conference, Urban said that the amnesty did not cover all criminal acts committed by internees. He added: "Preparatory proceedings have been initiated against some internees--for example, for creating an illegal political party."
Government officials used the press conference to justify the policy of allowing internees to apply for permission to leave Poland permanently--a measure Urban said had been misunderstood in the West. He insisted that it was designed as a humanitarian gesture toward people who pose a danger to the state and could not be equated with expulsion.
Urban said the internees would not be deprived of their Polish citizenship if they left the country and that they would have the right of return. He emphasized that no one would be forced to leave.
Most Western governments, including the Reagan administration, have taken the position that they will not assist in mass deportations from Poland. The dilemma, however, comes in deciding how to deal with a Solidarity activist who is given the choice of continued detention in Poland or freedom in the West.
The Polish authorities have said they will accept applications for passports from March 15. But some former detainees already have begun visiting the consular departments of Western embassies in Warsaw seeking information about emigration.
U.S. officials said that the applicants were told that they would have to apply for emigration in the normal way. This could in effect restrict emigration to those with relatives in the United States or other Western countries.
Meanwhile, an unusual controversy has blown up in the tightly controlled press here over what appears to have been a faked interview with one of Solidarity's top advisers, Bronislaw Geremek. Quotes from the "interview," parts of which appeared in the official Army newspaper, Zolnierz Wolnosci, in mid-January, were clearly anti-Semitic.
Geremek, who has been described in the Polish news media as a Zionist, was alleged by the Army newspaper to have said that he hated the Poles. He was quoted as saying that "the whole social movement we are establishing" (i.e., Solidarity) aimed "at the introduction of such changes in Poland's state and economic structure that the Jews in Poland will always be better off than the Poles."
The interview was denounced as "a fake" in this week's edition of Polityka, the weekly magazine edited by Deputy Premier Mieczyslaw Rakowski. Polityka reminded Zolnierz Wolnosci that libel remained a punishable offense in Poland despite martial law.
Polityka's vigorous attack reflected the fact that, despite the enforced uniformity of martial law, there are different trends within the Polish leadership. The attempt by some hard-liners to exploit anti-Semitism for political purposes has been condemned sharply by party moderates grouped around Rakowski.
By coincidence, today saw subdued ceremonies in Warsaw marking the 14th anniversary of student riots in March 1968 that resulted in a major "anti-Zionist" campaign. Wreaths and candles were laid at a plaque in Warsaw University erected last year to commemorate the victims of the campaign.
Several trucks with riot police were drawn up nearby, and the university was closed to outsiders, but there were no incidents.