Polish activists overturn statue of priest accused of sex abuse

Hours before the opening of a landmark summit at the Vatican on fighting child sex abuse

Afp February 21, 2019

WARSAW: Three activists overturned a statue of a Polish priest accused of sex abuse in the northern city of Gdansk early on Thursday, local police said.

Video footage on social media showed the men use a rope to topple the statue of Father Henryk Jankowski, who died in 2010 and has faced accusations of paedophilia.

On the fallen statue the men placed underwear and altar boy clothing in reference to the priest's alleged victims.

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Jankowski has faced renewed claims of child abuse since the liberal Gazeta Wyborcza daily published an article late last year reviving previous accusations, first surfaced years ago.

"They were detained around 3 am and taken in for questioning," Gdansk police spokesperson Karina Kaminska told AFP, referring to the three activists

The pulling down of the statue came just hours before the opening of a landmark summit at the Vatican on fighting child sex abuse.

The statue has been vandalised before.

The activists who toppled the statue are Warsaw residents known for taking part in protests against the governing conservatives.

They sent a manifesto to OKO.press, an independent Polish website, explaining that their goal was to "symbolically knock down the false memory and veneration of Henryk Jankowski from a societal pedestal".

"We accuse the Catholic Church and its representatives of not having reacted despite being aware of the harm done by Henryk Jankowski," they added.

The most well-known of the activists is Rafal Suszek, a university researcher and member of the anti-government protest movement Citizens of Poland.

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Jankowski supported Poland's first independent trade union Solidarity under communism.

He was a close aide to Solidarity leader Lech Walesa during strikes at the Gdansk shipyard in 1980 that led to the creation of communist Poland's first union outside government control.

But he became more controversial after the fall of communism for his anti-Semitic remarks.


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