Men acquitted over toppling statue of Polish priest suspected of child abuse

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By AP  with Euronews
The three men toppled the statue of Henryk Jankowski one night in February 2019
The three men toppled the statue of Henryk Jankowski one night in February 2019   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Bartek Sabela/Gazeta Wyborcza, File

Three men have been cleared of wrongdoing after toppling the statue of a former Polish priest suspected of sexually abusing children.

The activists gained prominence by knocking over the effigy of Henryk Jankowski in February 2019.

Jankowski rose to prominence in the 1980s through his support for the pro-democracy Solidarity movement against Poland’s communist regime. After his death in 2010, evidence mounted that he had allegedly abused boys and girls during his priesthood.

Polish officials initially refused to take down a statue honouring him, before three men chose to act.

Konrad Korzeniowski, Rafal Suszek, and Michal Wojcieszczuk toppled the statue during the night and reported themselves to the police, explaining they had acted for the good of the community. The move was a symbolic moment in the traditionally Catholic country’s reckoning with clerical abuse.

The three men also accused the Polish church of “systemic complicity in the evil done to people by Henryk Jankowski”.

Last year, a lower court found them guilty of insulting and destroying the monument but chose not to impose a penalty due to the “low social harmfulness” of the act.

On Monday, the Gdansk district court ruled on appeal to acquit the three men.

Shipyard workers initially re-erected the statue of Jankowski before city councillors voted to remove it permanently and rename the square.