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Lech Walesa rejects evidence suggesting he was communist-era paid informer

Frmer Polish president Lech Walesa has denied that he was a paid informant for the communist-era secret security from 1970 to 1976

Lech Walesa, Poland's former president and leader of its peaceful pro-democracy struggle, has rejected evidence recently presented by state experts who claim it proves that he was a communist-era paid informer.

The allegations against Mr Walesa are not new and he has been denying them ever since they surfaced in the early 1990s, tarnishing his image as a national hero and icon of struggle against communism.

But last week a state historical institute backed them with analyses by experts of handwriting in the reports made to the communist-era secret police and receipts for money in return, from 1970-76.

They concluded it was Mr Walesa's handwriting.

The conclusions are in line with the views of Poland's ruling party, which questions Mr Walesa's hero status and blames some of Poland's present shortcomings on the time when he had influence on the nation.

Mr Walesa insisted on Tuesday that he never collaborated, not even under pressure from authorities, and appealed to journalists to gather and publish proof that he was persecuted and fired from jobs by the authorities in the 1970s for his anti-communist activity.

"I swear to you now that I never pledged allegiance to the other side," Mr Walesa said.

Mr Walesa insisted the signatures were counterfeited and the reports were transcripts made by secret police from their eavesdropping on him and on other workers at the Gdansk shipyard and other places where he was employed as an electrician.

"I could find 100 handwriting experts who would deny" the findings by the state institute, he said.

The documents surfaced last year after the death of a communist-era interior minister who kept them in his basement.

Mr Walesa won the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize for leading Solidarity, the peaceful pro-democracy movement.

Six years later, Solidarity ousted the communists from power in peaceful negotiations.

Mr Walesa was democratic Poland's first popularly chosen president, from 1990 to 1995, but his authoritarian streak cost him a lot of popularity.

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