The Polish government said Thursday that it will release by Monday all political prisoners in a sweeping amnesty that covers senior jailed activists of the outlawed Solidarity union and other opposition activists.
The state news agency PAP said Interior Minister Gen. Czeslaw Kiszczak announced the amnesty for the country’s 225 political prisoners and said the action was “guided by the fact that security of the state has stabilized.”
Kiszczak said that among those covered by the amnesty are Zbigniew Bujak, the Solidarity underground leader arrested in May, and Wladyslaw Frasyniuk, a Wroclaw Solidarity leader.
Church and opposition sources have put the number of political prisoners at 350, saying the government classified some political detainees as common criminals.
The amnesty, viewed as a major political step by the government of Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, will not cover those accused of terrorism, spying or sabotage, PAP said.
Solidarity leader Lech Walesa said he received the news “with great pleasure” and called on authorities to allow greater personal freedoms.
Solidarity, the first independent trade union in the Soviet Bloc, was outlawed after martial law was declared in December, 1981.
A law passed by Parliament July 17 that allowed authorities to free political prisoners unconditionally will expire Monday.
The announcement also comes just three days after Poland’s Roman Catholic bishops released a statement calling for the release of all political prisoners.
On Thursday, security forces briefly detained and interrogated more than 3,000 suspected dissidents across the country. PAP said the sweep was intended to dissolve “illegal groups still trying to carry out activities aimed against the state and public order” without resorting to severe measures.