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Suspended Prison Term in 2010 Death of Poland’s President

Lech Kaczynski

A Polish court on Tuesday convicted and handed a suspended prison term to a former deputy head of government security over the 2010 plane crash that killed President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others.

The verdict by the Warsaw Provincial Court was the first prison term handed out over the April 10, 2010, crash of Poland’s presidential plane in Smolensk, Russia, that killed all on board.

Pawel Bielawny was found guilty of neglecting his duties and exposing Kaczynski and Prime Minister Donald Tusk to danger by failing to order a proper inspection of the rudimentary Smolensk airport and, in the president’s case, failing to send experienced officers to await the plane’s landing. Tusk had landed safely three days earlier.

The former deputy head of the Government Protection Bureau, or BOR, was given an 18-month suspended sentence and a 10,000-zloty (2,270-euro) fine.

The verdict is subject to appeal.

Kaczynski’s plane crashed in dense fog on approach to Smolensk airport. Separate commissions of aviation experts in Poland and in Russia blamed the crash on insufficient training of the crew and on human error in adverse circumstances. Tusk’s landing was in good visibility, but the court also saw security shortcomings in the organization of his flight.

Poland is currently governed by the conservative Law and Justice party led by Kaczynski’s twin, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who is intent on finding and punishing those guilty of his brother’s death.

“I hope there will be more court verdicts” in the case, Jaroslaw Kaczynski said in reaction to the verdict.

He blames his brother’s death on Tusk and on his government, arguing they intentionally neglected the security of a president they were not getting along with well.

In a separate trial over the crash, another member of Tusk’s government is facing accusations of negligence brought by the families of some of the victims.

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