Solidarity leader Lech Walesa challenged Poland's Communist authorities to arrest him Saturday and renewed his appeal to workers for a 15-minute general strike Feb. 28 to protest government plans to raise food prices.
Walesa emerged from a 1 1/2-hour meeting with a prosecutor in the Baltic Sea port of Gdansk, during which, he said, he was warned that he could be sent to prison for five years for continuing to lead the banned independent trade union movement.
The 41-year-old shipyard electrician, winner of the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize, issued a statement saying the latest police crackdown against Solidarity would not make him give up.
"I remind again all Solidarity members that the call for protest action on Feb. 28, 1985, is still valid, " Walesa said in a statement. The strike is in response to government plans to boost food prices 12% to 13% in March.
Walesa was summoned to the prosecutor's office after secret police broke up a clandestine union meeting in Gdansk on Feb. 13, called to organize the strike. The strike appeal marked the first time Walesa had openly supported a call for work stoppages since the December, 1981, military crackdown that resulted in the banning of Solidarity.
Walesa's lawyer, Jacek Taylor, said the prosecutor told Walesa that he and seven union activists who were picked up in Wednesday's police raid had been charged with inciting public unrest and organizing illegal protests.
Face Prison Terms
If convicted, the eight face a maximum three-year prison sentence. Walesa could also face a five-year term for leading an outlawed union.
Walesa said he informed the prosecutor that he took full responsibility for organizing the Feb. 13 meeting. "I gave the prosecutor all the documents concerning this issue, starting with my appeal to the workers," said Walesa.
Walesa said the authorities do not "have enough courage to imprison" him. He accused them of seeking "revenge by retaliating against people . . . who had shown their faithfulness to Solidarity's ideals."
"I was presented several charges but refused to answer all questions," Walesa said. "In the end, the prosecutor warned me that if I continued these activities, I will find myself in a different situation.
"I answered that I would continue them immediately after leaving his office and said, 'Goodby.' "
Walesa Under Investigation
Taylor said Walesa was also under investigation on charges of "fulfilling a leading role in a union which was dissolved," carrying a maximum five-year prison sentence.
"The charges all concern activities in the dissolved union and activities connected with preparations for the nationwide protest strike on Feb. 28, which may cause public unrest," said Taylor, contacted by telephone at Walesa's Gdansk apartment.
The prosecutor's action represented the most serious legal measures taken by Polish authorities against Walesa since he was released in November, 1982, after being interned for 11 months.
Solidarity was suspended during the martial-law period and outlawed by Parliament one month before Walesa's release.
Walesa has been summoned several times for questioning by authorities since then but was never presented with formal charges since his release from internment.
Bogdan Lis of Gdansk, Adam Michnik of Warsaw and Wladyslaw Frasyniuk of Wroclaw are being held in custody.
Lis and Frasyniuk are former members of the Solidarity underground's Temporary Coordinating Commission. Michnik is a prominent Solidarity adviser and founder of the now disbanded KOR workers' rights group. All three were released from prison last year under a goverment amnesty.