The mayor of the Polish city of Gdansk died after being stabbed at a weekend charity event, in a rare act of violence that stunned Poland and drew attention to its political debate more and more polarized.
Pawel Adamowicz was attacked on stage Sunday at the Christmas Charity Grand Orchestra Finals, Poland's largest fundraising event, and died of his injuries on Monday.
Adamowicz was mayor of the Baltic port city since 1998 and had played an active role in the "Solidarity" movement in the 1980s. Former member of the main center-right opposition party, Civic Platform, he s is presented as independent when he defeated the candidate of Law and justiceUltraconservative in power, in the local elections last year. He was a supporter of gay and minority rights and a fierce opponent of the government's anti-immigration policy.
Adamowicz's alleged assailant, a newly-released bank robber, allegedly charged the Civic Platform with his jail sentence for stabbing the mayor.
Polish society is increasingly divided between the center-right values of the civic platform, which ruled the country from 2007 to 2015, and Law and Justice, which took power four years ago, promising to bring the country back to more traditional values and revamp the justice system. .
Senior Law and Justice officials have condemned Monday's murder. "The murder of Adamowicz is a tragedy for all of us," Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki wrote on Twitter. "It is a great evil, which evokes condemnation, sadness and sorrow."
But Jurek Owsiak, head of fundraising, accused liberal critics of the government of inciting hatred when he resigned from his post.
"This hatred, which exists among people, has exploded in an extreme way," Owsiak said. "Maybe my resignation would help those who, even today, could not help writing odious things about me. Take a look at the media portals on the right. . . "
Mr. Owsiak was referring to a tweet by Krystyna Pawlowicz, a law and justice member who wrote shortly after the knife attack: "Owsiak has to leave because he is playing against each other. . . will end badly. Owsiak has to leave. . . for the safety of others. "
A few days before Sunday's event, Poland's main public television channel broadcast an animation showing Mr Owsiak as a puppet handing money bags to former Warsaw mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz. Ms. Gronkiewicz-Waltz is a member of Civic Platform. One of the money bags was marked with a star of David, a symbol often used by anti-Semitic propaganda.
In July 2017, All-Polish Youth, an extreme right-wing youth organization, published on social networks the "political death certificates" of 11 mayors of Polish cities who signed a declaration of cooperation on migration. Adamowicz was condemned for "liberalism, multiculturalism, madness". The mayor had complained about the police's refusal to investigate the alleged death threats.
"If you look at the statistics in Poland, there has been an increase in hate crimes, and in particular acts of violence. We missed the moment when we could focus only on combating hate speech and where institutional solutions at the state level were weaker than before, "said Jacek Mazurczak, an expert at the Institute. for Social Safety, which monitors hate crimes in a special journal. team under Ministry of the Interior. Mazurczak's team was dissolved by the Law and Justice government in 2016.
Andrzej Duda, President of PolandMonday convened a meeting of Polish political party leaders to organize an anti-violence march in Gdansk.
But Civic Platform and another opposition party, the Alliance for the Democratic Left, boycotted the meeting.
Wlodzimierz Czarzasty, leader of the Alliance for the Democratic Left, wrote in a statement that "this is not the time to do politics". According to Gazeta Wyborcza, the civic platform politicians refused to participate in order to respect the wishes of Mr. Adamowicz's family, who did not want to politicize his death.
Donald Tusk, President of the European Council and former Polish Prime Minister of the Civic Platform, visited Gdansk on Monday. "Paweł Adamowicz, mayor of Gdańsk, a man of solidarity and freedom, European, my good friend, was murdered," tweeted Tusk. "That he rests in peace."
Additional report by Michael Peel in Brussels