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Polish court orders damages for toppling priest statue

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A court in Poland on Tuesday ordered three men to pay the equivalent of 1,700 euros ($1,990) in damages for toppling a statue of the late Solidarity-era priest Henryk Jankowski over allegations that he sexually abused minors.

The court in Gdansk, on the Baltic coast, did not find the men guilty of desecrating the statue or of any harmful crime.

The three travelled from Warsaw to pull Jankowski’s Gdansk statue from its pedestal in February 2019. They wanted to draw attention to the allegations that the prominent priest, honored for his pro-democracy activity in the 1980s, abused minors.

Video footage from 2019 showed three men attaching a rope around the statue of the late monsignor before his former parish church in Gdansk and then pulling it down to rest on used tires. They then placed children’s underwear in one of the statue’s hands and a small white lace church vestment worn by altar boys on the statue’s body to symbolize the suffering of the young people he allegedly molested.

Jankowski, who died in 2010, never faced charges over the abuse allegations. The statue has been since permanently removed.

Jankowski 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. World leaders including President George H.W. Bush and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher visited his St. Brygida church in recognition of his anti-communist activity.

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