Polish man charged with burning Jew effigy at anti-Muslim protest
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Polish man charged with burning Jew effigy at anti-Muslim protest

(JTA) — Polish prosecutors indicted for incitement a construction contractor from the western city of Wroclaw who burned an effigy of a Jew at a protest rally against Muslim immigration.

Piotr Rybak, an entrepreneur from Wroclaw, may face as long as two years in jail if convicted of the charges leveled against him last week for his actions on Nov. 18, the Polish Gazeta Wyborcza daily reported on Feb. 25.

Prosecutors are considering indicting additional people in connection with the events in November, when Rybak was photographed setting fire to an effigy of an Orthodox Jew with sidelocks, according to the daily.  The incident was part of a rally by 200 people who gathered to protest EU requirements that Poland accept refugees from Syria and Iraq. Rybak is accused of incitement hatred against a faith or ethnic group.

During the event, Rybak was heard saying: “Our duty and the duty of the newly elected government” is to say that “we will not bring a single Muslim into Poland, Poland is for Poles.” He then set fire to the effigy, which featured an EU flag. He has denied any wrongdoing and refused to answer prosecutors’ questions.

Separately, a high school in Wroclaw canceled the reading of a poem deemed anti-Semitic at a ceremony for graduates. The poem, which was scheduled to be read aloud on Tuesday during a memorial ceremony for militiamen killed by communists, featured the line: “An American Jew writes about your guilt in the Holocaust. The word ’shame’ in unbeknownst to him, though he grew up in a Polish family.”

The ceremony, approved by the pupils’ English teacher, was canceled following complaints from parents.

The line from a poem by Leszek Czajkowski, a nationalist poet, is a possible reference to Jan Gross, a Poland-born American Jew who in 2001 helped expose the 1941 massacre by Poles against Jews at Jedwabne.

The office of Polish President Andrzej Duda,a right-wing politician who was elected last year, recently ordered the re-evaluation of a state honor given to Gross in 1996.

In an interview with JTA, Gross said the electoral victory of Duda’s Law and Justice Party in October was “a big disappointment to those who err on the side of tolerance in Poland” and “risked entrenching the monolithic tendencies in Polish society, to the detriment of minorities.”