4 AUGUST 1984, Page 5

Doubtful amnesty

Every release of an unjustly imprisoned man is a good thing, and we are therefore bound to welcome the Polish amnesty which includes some 650 political prisoners. We particularly salute the return of the seven Solidarity and four KOR leaders, whom the regime has long held up as the 'guilty men' who supposedly led astray the Solidarity movement. However, the terms on which they have been let out

are highly conditional. Under Polish law, if they are rearrested they are liable to he tried on all the previous charges, as well as any new ones. There was an amnesty last year too, but Poland's prisons soon filled again with the country's most honest and courageous citizens. It is probable that this will happen again. General Jaruzelski is trying to square another circle: to persuade the West to lift sanctions while satisfying Moscow that he is perfectly indifferent to the West; to pacify the Polish people while still denying them any influence over their own destiny. He no doubt hopes that the dramatic amnesty will loosen our purse- strings, while quiet rearrests of the most important dissidents in a few months' time will not be found sufficient reason for tightening them again. After all, what is one individual prisoner when the peace of Europe is at stake? Fortunately, Western governments are not wholly naive. Even the Bonn government has reacted with caution, and no major concessions can be expected until after the presidential elec- tion in the United States. During this useful interval, we shall see if General Jaruzelski's regime really can stop impris- oning people for saying what they think.