WARSAW, Poland — The Gdansk district court on Monday acquitted three men who in 2019 toppled a statue of a late priest suspected of sexually abusing minors, a symbolic moment in the traditionally Catholic country’s reckoning with clerical abuse.
The priest, Henryk Jankowski, who died in 2010, rose to prominence in the 1980s through his support for the pro-democracy Solidarity movement and its leader, Lech Walesa, in their struggle against Poland’s communist regime.
As evidence mounted after his death about his alleged abuse of boys and girls, officials at first refused to take down a statue honoring him, so the three activists decided to act.
The three — Konrad Korzeniowski, Rafal Suszek and Michal Wojcieszczuk — pulled it down one night in February 2019. They then called the police to report themselves, and also issued a manifesto explaining they had acted for the good of the community.
They accused the church of “systemic complicity in the evil done to people by Henryk Jankowski” and they accused public officials of looking away from the problem.
Shipyard workers re-erected the statue before city councilors voted to remove it and strip his name from the square where it stood.
Last year a lower court found the three activists guilty of insulting and destroying the monument, but chose not to impose a penalty due to the “low social harmfulness” of the act. On Monday a higher ruled on appeal to acquit the three and the ruling is final.
Reached by phone, Korzeniowski expressed relief at the ruling.