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Poland19 May 2005

Police arrest Indymedia contributor and accuse him of assault on police

Reporters Without Borders protested after student Grzegorz Prujszczyk, contributor to the Indymedia Poland website, was arrested and mistreated after filming an anti-war demonstration in Warsaw.

Police arrested Prujszczyk as the rally on 16 May was beginning to break up. He was wearing an orange waistcoat with the word "Press" on it. Police grabbed him first among a group taking part in the march. He was then forced to lie on the floor of the van taking him to the police station with an officer kneeling on his back.

At the station, officers viewed his videotape and then held him in custody for 39 hours. He is now under police surveillance and has to report to police once a week. He has been accused of assaulting a police officer, a charge that carries a ten-year jail sentence under the Article 223 of Poland’s criminal law.

"This behaviour by police is a threat to press freedom," the organisation said. "Polish journalists and other media workers should be able to cover every type of event, even those seen as sensitive like opposition demonstrations against the government’s support for the war in Iraq."

Police accused Prujszczyk of assaulting a police officer, even though according to accounts from other people present, particularly other journalists, he took no part in jostling with the security forces. He categorically denied any involvement.

The police accusation is based on the evidence of an officer whom Prujszyk says he does not know. One officer reportedly admitted to him while in custody that security forces had been planning to arrest him for some time. No detailed charges have yet been produced.

There have been very few anti-war demonstrations in Poland since the government decided to support the US-led coalition in March 2003. Fewer than 5,000 people took part in the biggest, in 2004. Several pacifist activists have however been arrested in Poland since the start of the conflict for "demonstrating illegally".

Indymedia is a collaborative network of websites on which Internet-users post messages freely. Prujszczyk spends most of his spare time reporting without pay for Indymedia Poland and is a member of its editorial team of around a dozen.

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