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Poland plans 'modest' funeral for communist leader

28 May 2014, 18:00

Warsaw - Poland's last communist leader, Wojciech Jaruzelski, will be buried without the usual pomp and ceremony accorded a former head of state, the government said on Wednesday.

Jaruzelski's death on Sunday aged 90 triggered a fierce debate about his role.

In the early 1980s, under pressure from the Soviet Union, he imposed military rule on Poland, during which dozens of protesters were killed. Yet he later stepped aside and allowed democratic rule.

The funeral arrangements represented a compromise between his supporters who argue he should be buried with full state honours, and opponents who say Jaruzelski does not deserve that.

The office of Polish president Bronislaw Komorowski, which is overseeing the arrangements, said Jaruzelski, a former general, will be buried on Friday at the Powazki military ceremony in Warsaw.

"The funeral will have a state character because it would be difficult to bury a former president in any other way," presidential adviser Tomasz Nalecz told the Zet radio station.

But he said: "It will be as modest as a soldier's funeral can be, it will not be in any kind of prominent place in the cemetery.

Komorowski will attend a funeral mass for Jaruzelski on Friday, but has not said if he will go to the funeral itself. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said he will stay away.

"I do not change my assessment of the deeds of General Jaruzelski and this is a decidedly negative assessment, but in any case respect is due for the uniform and for the deceased," Tusk said.

A spokesperson for the Warsaw military garrison said it was waiting for instructions from the president's office on whether it should lay on a military orchestra and honour guard for the funeral.

- Reuters


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