Berlin, January 26, 2024—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns a recent Polish court ruling that, in a final, non-appealable verdict, acquitted former member of the Polish Senate and entrepreneur Aleksander Gawronik, who has been accused of being the initiator of the 1992 murder of investigative journalist Jarosław Ziętara.
“We are deeply disappointed that the long judicial process involving the suspects in journalist Jarosław Ziętara’s murder has not resulted in a mastermind being convicted for his killing,” said Attila Mong, CPJ’s Europe representative. “Now, more than 30 years later and with the two alleged hitmen awaiting an appeals court decision after their acquittal in 2022, there seems to be little chance that Polish authorities will end impunity in Ziętara’s case. Polish authorities should continue to work toward complete justice by pursuing the prosecution of all who orchestrated his murder.”
Ziętara disappeared on September 1, 1992, in Poznań, western Poland. Prior to his disappearance, he had published investigative articles about alleged irregularities and corruption connected to the privatization of state-owned companies, as well as reports about the alleged role of the political elite and the secret services in these scandals. He also covered human trafficking and smuggling along the German-Polish and Belarusian-Polish borders.
After years of delays in investigating his disappearance and suspected death and a campaign by the journalist’s family and colleagues for authorities to take action, prosecutors in 2011 reopened the investigation and determined that Ziętara had likely been killed in connection with his reporting on alleged corruption.
Gawronik’s trial on charges of inciting Ziętara’s murder began in 2016. Prosecutors believed that the businessman, who in the early 1990s was an active entrepreneur in Poznań, instigated Ziętara’s murder to prevent the journalist from reporting on his business activities.
On January 19, 2024, the Court of Appeal in Poznań issued a final judgment upholding the initial verdict acquitting Gawronik due to a lack of evidence. Gawronik pleaded not guilty and denied the charges all through the process.
The whereabouts of Ziętara’s body remain unknown.
In January 2024, CPJ’s email to the prosecutor’s office in Poznań did not receive any replies.