The request for a confrontation of witnesses was filed by the prosecution on Thursday during the trial of Aleksander Gawronik, accused of inciting the murder of journalist Jarosław Ziętara. Those are the persons, who have already testified in the trial: the founder of Elektromis Mariusz Ś. and the former editor-in-chief of the weekly Wprost.
On Thursday, the Regional Court in Poznań continued the trial of former senator Aleksander Gawronik (whose full name may be published), accused of inciting the Elektromis security guards to kidnap, imprison and then murder reporter of “Gazeta Poznańska” Jarosław Ziętara.
On Thursday, the founder of Elektromis, Mariusz Ś., testified for the second time during the trial at the request of the defence. In his testimony, he referred, among other things, to a meeting that took place in the early 1990s at the home of the former owner and former editor-in-chief of the weekly Wprost, Marek Król; the editorial office of the weekly was then located in Poznań.
Mariusz Ś. admitted in court that he knew Marek Król. As he said, “I met with him at his home in Poznań or Przeźmierowo. I’m not sure about that. I was asked for this meeting either by Gawronik or by King, but through the secretary’s office. The subject of the meeting was the recapitalization of the company publishing ‘Wprost’ weekly. I was interested in it, which is why I agreed to the meeting.”
He added that he did not remember the exact date of the meeting, but indicated that it was “rather in the 1990s.”
“Gawronik was also at this meeting because Król asked Gawronik for mediation and help in recapitalising the company, I suppose. I did not have any business arrangement with Gawronik, I did not pay him any commissions, we did not have an agreement,”
– he pointed out. He added that he knew nothing about Gawronik’s meeting with Król, which was supposed to have taken place earlier in Warsaw and which was supposed to concern him.
“Gawronik was probably a senator at the time, this is a serious public function and a phone call is taken from such a person. The meeting was in a nice atmosphere, we exchanged phone numbers, but Mr Król never called me again. I was willing to recapitalize this title, I was interested in this investment. I never came to these meetings with guns, I don’t carry a gun,”
– he said.
The prosecutor Piotr Kosmaty asked the witness whether he saw any contradiction between the fact that he wanted – as he indicated – to recapitalise the title and the fact that press articles unfavourable to him appeared in the weekly. Answering the questions, Mariusz Ś. noted that in fact “Wprost” published articles that were unfavourable for him and defamatory.
“These articles were published before and after my meeting with Król. The fact that I wanted to recapitalize this project does not contradict these articles. It was a good weekly newspaper, the articles about me were bad. I don’t remember whether we reacted somehow to such articles at the time, whether the press officer wrote any rectification,”
– he stressed.
During Thursday’s hearing, after questioning the witness, the prosecutor made a motion to confront the witnesses; Mariusz Ś. with Marek Król, among others, on the circumstance of discrepancies in testimony concerning the meeting at Król’s house. According to the prosecutor, the confrontation of witnesses is necessary because it can clarify a key issue in the case. As he explained, from the very beginning of the trial, the defence has been moving in the direction that Mariusz Ś. did not know the defendant in the early 1990s, “whereas from all the testimony that we are getting, it appears that it was the other way round, so I think this must be clarified.” According to the prosecutor’s office, witness testimony indicates that in the early 1990s, Gawronik not only knew Mariusz Ś. but also closely cooperated with him – which they both deny. They also indicate that they did not meet privately and that their “only business meeting” concerned the lease of the weekly magazine “Poznaniak” in 1997.
Marek Król testified in Gawronik’s trial in March of this year. At the time, he told the court that his meeting with Mariusz Ś. and Gawronik took place in 1994. The witness testified that in spring 1994 Gawronik first visited the Warsaw editorial office of “Wprost” in Ordynacka street. “Gawronik visited me, as I understood it, in the role of a mediator and on behalf of Mariusz Ś. He offered me a meeting with Ś. I was surprised that this meeting was to take place in the woods and was to be about agreeing between us on the issue of texts that had appeared in the weekly Wprost, which described the difficult situation of the Posnania bank, of which Mariusz Ś. was the main disposer or owner,” he noted.
The witness, describing the course of the meeting, stressed that Gawronik came unexpectedly and asked to go to the courtyard. Król said in court that after speaking with Gawronik, he met with his deputies, whom he told about the visit. At that point, one of the deputies said to notify the Interior Department about the conversation. The witness stated that he had met with Minister Milczanowski about the matter.
“The meeting was short, the minister offered me BOR (Bureau of Government Protection – editor’s note) protection for me and my family, saying that the situation is serious and I should not belittle this conversation with Gawronik,”
– he pointed out.
The witness said that another meeting with Gawronik – and then also with Mariusz Ś. – occurred before Easter 1994.
“When I was visited by Aleksander Gawronik, who named Mariusz Ś. as president, there was already a BOR unit in my house. I was instructed to receive the gentlemen in a normal way, ordering them to come without weapons. (…) Before this conversation, I was dressed by the BOR in a bulletproof vest. The men entered the guest room, the wife served tea, she played her part well. We had a conversation and I remember mainly the message that I should sell the weekly Wprost to Mariusz Ś. He assured me several times that I would get enough money for me and my children for the rest of their lives. I’ve created a situation then that I’ll think about it,”
– he said.
The witness stressed in court that after some publications there were anonymous phone calls to the editorial office with threats; „stop it, because it won’t pay off for you.” “There was also an opinion in Poznań at the time that Mariusz Ś. should not be messed with because it could end badly for the person who tries to confront him. There was even an opinion that Poznań was the city of Ś” – emphasized Król.
During Thursday’s hearing, Gawronik himself also referred to the circumstances of that meeting. In a statement, he stressed that it was Marek Król who called him and asked for a meeting. “On the agreed date we met in his editorial office. He suggested a walk, as the weather was nice. Król asked me to negotiate the sale of Wprost weekly. I said that if he thought I could be of use, he would be happy to. After some time, he called again and asked if we could meet at his house,” he said.
“I went and there was a conversation, I don’t remember if it was a conversation with Mr Ś or someone else. It concerned matters related to, I don’t remember whether to recapitalize or sell the weekly. It was a short conversation; I think I was the first to leave because I figured it was a waste of time,”
– he added and said that Król asked him to negotiate because he had business experience and they had known each other for a long time.
On Thursday, Mariusz Ś. also referred to the testimony of Zdzisław K; the man testified in court about his cooperation with Mariusz Ś. related to the company Strefa Wolnocłowa. He also said that when he was in a psychiatric hospital – in order to, as he claims, avoid a criminal case and a possible sentence – Ziętara visited him. “He didn’t introduce himself to me, but he was the only journalist who continued to pursue these cases after they were dismissed. This I know from Mariusz Ś. Later it turned out that it was Jarosław Ziętara” – said the witness.
Mariusz Ś., on the other hand, said on Thursday that the cooperation with K. “went well” and was rather “incidental”.
Jarosław Ziętara was born in Bydgoszcz in 1968. He graduated from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. At first, he worked in academic radio, later he cooperated with “Gazeta Wyborcza”, “Kurier Codzienny”, “Wprost” weekly and “Gazeta Poznańska”. He was last seen on September 1, 1992. He left home for work in the morning but never made it to the editorial office of the “Gazeta Poznańska”. He was declared dead in 1999. The journalist’s body has not been found to this day.