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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 August 2006, 16:43 GMT 17:43 UK
Polish police hunt 'insult' man
By Adam Easton
BBC News, Warsaw

Lech Kaczynski
Lech Kaczynski has championed traditional Catholic values
Poland is searching for a 31-year-old homeless man after he failed to appear in court to answer a charge of insulting President Lech Kaczynski.

The man is accused of slandering Mr Kaczynski during a drunken outburst as police were questioning him at Warsaw's main train station last winter.

In Poland it is a crime to insult the head of state.

If convicted, the accused could face a maximum three-year sentence. He is believed to be in southern Poland.

The trial failed to start because nobody had been able to find the homeless man to tell him to appear in court.

Officers originally questioned him at Warsaw train station last December for being loud and abusive.

He allegedly made insulting and lewd remarks about President Kaczynski. The officers took him to a drunk tank to sober up, but instead of being released with a warning, a criminal case was started against him.

'Ridiculous case'

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights group told the BBC the case was ridiculous and a completely disproportionate response on behalf of the authorities.

Cases involving defamation of the Polish president have been brought before, but none ended in a conviction.

If found guilty the homeless man could be imprisoned, but would more likely face a fine.

Poland's conservative president has proved sensitive to criticism lately.

He was incensed last month after a German newspaper published a satirical article which compared him and his twin brother Jaroslaw, Poland's prime minister, to a pair of new potatoes.


SEE ALSO
Polish nationalism resurgent
09 May 06 |  Europe
Country profile: Poland
25 Jul 06 |  Country profiles

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