By Dmitry Babich
The seemingly bizarre case of the Polish military prosecutor, Mikolaj Przybyl, who made a failed assassination (suicide) attempt on Monday, shooting himself in the head during a break in a press conference, is no laughing matter. In fact, it may lead to a Russia-related political crisis in Poland. The prosecutor, whose life is no longer in danger thanks to the efforts of doctors in the Polish city of Poznan, had a long story to tell the journalists. This story has lots of links to Russophobic political forces in Poland, their attempts to disrupt Russo-Polish relations and the activities of American special services in Poland. The irony of the situation is that the incident is used politically by the leaders of the conservative opposition party Law and Justice, whom Przybyl in fact accused of trying to ruin Russo-Polish relations playing media games around the tragic crash of the Polish presidential jet in April 2010 in the Russian city of Smolensk. The Law and Justice faction in the Polish parliament (Sejm) is now demanding an extraordinary session to discuss the matter and calls for the resignation of Przybyl’s boss, the Polish military prosecutor general, accusing him of “seeing Russia, and not the United States, as a friend of Poland.”
What happened that day?
Here is the gist of what happened on Monday in the office of the deputy chief military prosecutor for Poznan region, colonel Mikolaj Przybyl. Having summoned the journalists to his office, the colonel first defended against the media attacks his colleagues the military prosecutors. The investigators, including colonel Przybyl himself, were accused by the rightist newspapers in Poland of illegally obtaining the texts of SMS messages of two journalists, Maciej Duda from TVN 24 and Cezary Gmyza from the daily Rzeczpospolita.
Having finished reading a text prepared in advance, Przybyl asked the journalists to leave the room for a minute, saying he needed a minute of rest. He even urged them to leave their personal belongings and cameras in place. With the journalists gone, colonel Przybyl turned his back to the window, put his pistol next to his mouth and shot. Luckily, the bullet only slightly damaged his facial bones and his cheek, leaving the colonel unconscious, but alive. The journalists, who rushed into the room, found the colonel lying in a pool of blood. Two journalists tried to help the poor officer, while cameramen rushed to their cameras filming the bloody scene (they were later lambasted by their media colleagues for being so insensitive). Upon being brought to the hospital, the colonel said he indeed wanted to commit suicide, but his hand trembled, when he heard somebody knocking on the door. He said he saw suicide as a way to “protect the honor of people whom he knew and who did some honest work.”
What western media ignored
The Western media in fact ignored the case, concentrating on the seemingly internal issue of a conflict between the office of the Polish prosecutor general and the chief military prosecutor, Krzysztof Parulski, whom Przybyl said he wanted to protect from unfounded accusations by his Monday action. But even a brief glance at the text that Przybyl read to the journalists before asking them to leave is enough to see that the case indeed had to do with international politics, with the US special services playing a rather unseemly role in it. The text was published by Gazeta Wyborcza daily.
In that text, Przybyl told the journalists that he was asked to investigate the leaks that occurred in the Polish prosecutor’s office in 2010-2011. The leaks included “information confidentially passed by the prosecutors of Russian Federation to Polish prosecutors” on the investigation in Russia of the Smolensk plane crash of April 2010, in which Polish president Lech Kaczynski and 95 other people got killed during a botched landing attempt by the presidential TU-154. “The fact that this information got into the hands of the media made our cooperation difficult and led to delays in this very important investigation,” explained Przybyl on camera minutes before trying to end his life.
An internal investigation has revealed that the information was passed to journalists and also to American secret agents by Marek Pasionek, a prosecutor having access to the materials of the Polish Chief Military Prosecutor’s office. The appointment of this person had been in fact forced on the military prosecutor’s office by Zbigniew Ziobro, the former Polish minister of justice in the government of Law and Justice party, which held total power in Poland between 2005 and 2007, under president Lech Kaczynski and his twin brother, prime-minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski.
Obviously, passing the information to the media, Marek Pasionek played the political game of the Law and Justice party (known in Poland under its Polish abbreviation of PiS). Losing elections to the liberal presidential candidate Bronislaw Komorowski, PiS’s leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski in 2010 made conspiracy theories around his brother’s death the center of his electoral campaign. The main targets of these conspiracy theories were Russian authorities (which allegedly deliberately brought about the disaster) and the Polish liberal politicians, Bronislaw Komorowski and prime-minister Donald Tusk (who allegedly “sent the president to his death” refusing to support his unauthorized visit to the site of the 1940 massacre by Stalin of Polish officers in Katyn, a place in the woods near Smolensk). Obviously, Pasionek’s presenting the secret investigation materials to the media under a certain pro-Kaczynski angle helped Kaczynski make his conspiracy theories more plausible.
What America is allowed to do, Russia isn’t
Where Pasionek definitely trespassed the boundaries of law and simple morality was his meeting with CIA and FBI agents from the American embassy in Warsaw. The details of this meeting were first revealed in a publication in the liberal Gazeta Wyborcza daily in June 2011, an article headlined Café Under an Agent. Having learnt about this meeting of his formal subordinate, Poland’s chief military prosecutor Krzysztof Parulski suspended Pasionek of his duties and ordered him not to come to work until further notice. An investigation was started, in which Przybyl took part.
“I view the actions of this prosecutor [Pasionek] as being unprofessional and breaching the existing regulations,” Przybyl said before trying to commit suicide. In his speech, Przybyl also stressed that accusations of the pro-Kaczynski press against Parulski, who was called “a fink” by TVN24 were in fact immoral. When a journalist of TVN24, Maciej Duda, in a question to a spokesman of the Chief Military Prosecutor referred to secret materials that he had obtained from Pasionek and even called the latter by name, the military prosecutors asked for permission to check Duda’s SMS messages. Later this action was presented in the press as “eavesdropping on journalists.”
The investigation against Pasionek was stopped in December 2011, and this was the reason for Przybyl’s anger and despair. Now Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his party are presenting Pasionek, former deputy head of a department in Kaczynski’s government, as “an honest person” and say they see nothing bad in his contacts with special services of an “ally,” the United States. It is worth mentioning that during the investigation of the Smolensk disaster PiS pushed for involving American experts in the investigation, even though the United States had nothing to do with the disaster and the matter was a strictly Russo-Polish one. As for Przybyl, Jaroslaw Kaczynski saw something suspicious in his being worried about attempts to ruin Russo-Polish relations by conspiracy theories. “Obviously for him Russia is a friend and the United States isn’t,” the Polish PAP news agency quotes Kaczynski as saying.