KESTON NEWS SERVICE, 20.00 14 November 2000

DECISION AGAINST POLISH PRIEST The priest�s lawyer told Keston, �The
law has triumphed�. Whether Fr Karolak returns to his parish is up to Belarus�
Catholic leadership, but many who wanted him removed are still in office and
�won't be happy [with the court decision]. They are senior people.�


by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

The lawyer for Polish Catholic priest Father Zbigniew Karolak - forced to leave
Belarus last May ahead of a deportation order - has welcomed the `sensational'
decision of the Brest regional court to annul the deportation order. `The law has
triumphed,' Igor Kabalik told Keston News Service by telephone from Brest on
14 November, the day after the court ruling. `Zbigniew Karolak can now get in
a car and drive into Belarus on any day, as in a civilised state.'

Invited by the Pinsk Catholic diocese, Father Karolak served as parish priest of
the Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in the western Belarusian town
of Brest for nine years, but was forced to leave the country after encountering
increasing opposition from the Brest office of the government's Committee for
Religious Affairs and the prosecutor's office.

The collegium for civil cases of the Brest regional court heard Father Karolak's
appeal on 13 November against a ruling of the court of Brest's Leninsky district
of 20 October (see KNS 30 October 2000). In his appeal, the priest argued that
the Leninsky district procurator had exceeded his powers when he issued the
deportation order and the Leninsky district court had been wrong to uphold the
deportation order. The Leninsky district court's decision had also been
challenged by the Brest regional procurator. The Brest regional court cancelled
the October court ruling and halted the action against Father Karolak. `This
means that the Leninsky district procurator did not have the right to deport
Father Karolak and that the decision had been taken in
violation of the law,' Kabalik told Keston. He added that he did not believe the
regional procurator would challenge the ruling as he had been present in court
and had himself challenged the earlier court decision.

Asked whether Father Karolak would now return to Belarus to serve as a parish
priest, Kabalik declared that this was a matter for the country's Catholic
leadership. `It is Cardinal Kazimierz Swiatek who will decide on his future
service in the church.' Bishop Kazimierz Wielikosielec, assistant bishop of
Pinsk, and Father Viktor Borisevich are now resident in the Exaltation of the
Holy Cross parish.

Kabalik placed the blame for the moves to expel Father Karolak from Belarus
on the former governor of Brest region, Vladimir Zalomai, who was recently
removed from office. `[President Aleksandr] Lukashenko did not want all this
scandal,' he declared. `Bureaucrats were to blame.' However, he added: `Those
that didn't want Father Karolak here won't be happy [with the court decision].
They are senior people.' (END)

Copyright (c) 2000 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.