Poland’s health minister told local media that Gdansk’s mayor died in a hospital after being stabbed at a charity event. A man accused of carrying out the attack is in custody.
Mayor Pawel Adamowicz was stabbed on stage at a charity event on Sunday. A 27-year-old man with an existing criminal record was later arrested.
Adamowicz has been mayor of the Baltic port city since 1998 and was a former member of the Civic Platform party, Poland’s previous government before the Law and Justice (PiS) party came to power in 2015.
“We couldn’t win,” Poland’s Health Minister Lukasz Szumowski told reporters, confirming the mayor’s death.
Condolences pour in
Politicians across Poland’s political spectrum condemned the stabbing. “I’m expressing great pain for the tragic death due to the criminal attack on mayor Pawel Adamowicz. We express solidarity with his family,” Jaroslaw Kaczynski, PiS party chairman said.
The president of the European Council and former prime minister of Poland, Donald Tusk, reacted to the news with a message on twitter.
“Pawel Adamowicz, Mayor of Gdansk, a man of Solidarity and freedom, a European, my good friend, has been murdered. May he rest in peace,” Tusk wrote.
“We are profoundly saddened and shocked at the death of Pawel Adamowicz, the mayor of Gdansk,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas wrote on Twitter. “Our thoughts at this time are with his family and friends. We stand in solidarity with our close friend and neighbor, Poland.”
Polish President Andrzej Duda is expected to meet with political party leaders on Monday, to organize a march against violence and hatred in the wake of the attack.
Gdansk lowered its city flags to half-staff, following the news of the death.
Details of attack
- Mayor Adamowicz was attending the final day of a charity event organized by the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity.
- The 27-year-old assailant stormed the stage and stabbed the mayor.
- In a spectator video, the attacker was seen taking a microphone and addressing the crowd, claiming he had been wrongly jailed and tortured by the Civic Platform government.
- Security personnel swiftly pinned the suspect down and then the police arrested him.
- Doctors said Adamowicz sustained serious damage to the heart, diaphragm and organs in the abdominal region during the stabbing.
- The mayor underwent five hours of surgery in an attempt to save his life.
A difficult transition
Political tensions have picked up in Poland in recent years, after PiS won a heated 2015 election in which the Civic Platform lost almost three-quarters of its seats in parliament.
A contentious PiS program of government, coupled with ongoing criticism of the previous government, continue to divide the electorate.
Who was Pawel Adamowicz?
As Gdansk’s longstanding mayor, Adamowicz was one of Poland’s progressive voices. He supported sex education in schools, LGBT rights and tolerance for minorities.
He had also advocated bringing wounded Syrian children to Gdansk for medical treatment, a plan that was blocked by the PiS government.
Adamowicz’s political career goes all the way back to the 1980’s, when he was part of the democratic opposition formed in Gdansk under the leadership of Lech Walesa.
Born in 1965, he won a total of six terms as mayor, the most recent secured late last year. He ran as an independent in 2018, but remained critical of the PiS government.
His wife Magdalena is a law professor at the University of Gdansk; they have two daughters, Antonina and Teresa.
Polish prosecutors say the 27-year-old attacker is being investigated for attempted murder and will also be subjected to a psychiatric examination.
If convicted, the attacker could face a punishment of life in prison.
Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro said prosecutors were looking into the suspect’s criminal record. He is said to have been convicted in relation to several bank robberies and has reportedly spent more than 5 years in jail.
jcg/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters)