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With the seventh anniversary of the crash of the Tu-154M plane in Smolensk drawing near, the prosecution office handling the investigation into this matter organised a press conference during which it informed the public opinion of new facts and findings made to date.
The Polish Prosecution decided in November 2016 to initiate the exhumation of all the victims. Deputy Prosecutor General, Marek Pasionek, said since then a total of 17 bodies were exhumed. ‘The autopsies are performed by world-class specialists.’ He emphasised that there were multiple irregularities. ‘In two cases the bodies were switched. Furthermore, in five cases it was determined that pieces of bodies of other persons were placed in the coffins.’
In fact, with the coffins sealed shut in Russia and never opened in Poland, Polish authorities having not carried out autopsies once coffins were in Poland violated Art. 209 of the Polish Criminal Procedure Code. Out of nine exhumations carried out so far back in 2012, six bodies were buried in the wrong graves. As it turned out, the victims were buried naked in plastic bags containing dirt, mud, waste, rubbish, cigarette butts, ripped pieces of clothing and with organs having been moved around (displaced). This means that in total, taking into account all the exhumations carried out so far including those conducted in 2012 there has been 5 cases (10 people) of bodies placed in wrong coffins.
The circumstances of the Smolensk crash are investigated by the special team of prosecutors at the National Prosecution Office. Last year, at the beginning of April, the National Prosecution Office took over the investigation in the matter of the Smolensk crash from the dissolved Military Prosecution Office after six years of investigating. The Polish Defence Ministry informed in last year that Warsaw would restart its investigation into the crash from scratch. During the press conference held at the National Prosecution Office in Warsaw, Deputy Prosecutor General, Marek Pasionek said that the team of prosecutors who are working on explaining the circumstances of the Smolensk crash gathered and analysed close to 2 thousand volumes of files, and there are now eight proceedings pending. Since restarting the investigation 17 bodies have been already exhumed in connection with the investigation into the Smolensk crash in cooperation renowned scientific laboratories from 4 countries: United Kingdom, Spain, Northern Ireland, and Italy was initiated.
The Prosecution has said from the very beginning that it would be necessary to exhume the bodies of all the Smolensk crash victims due to the errors that had been made. He referred e.g. to the potential swapping of bodies of victims of the 10 April 2010 crash and to the irregularities in descriptions of the injuries in the documentation drawn up by the Russians. The analyses commissioned by the National Prosecution Office are conducted by an international team of 14 experts. For example, the team contains three experts representing the University Centre of Legal Medicine, Lausanne - Geneva (Switzerland), one expert from the University of Coimbra (Portugal) and two professors from Odense (Denmark). The rest of the experts are from Cracow, Warsaw, Lublin. The experts conduct the autopsies, CAT scans, collect samples for DNA tests, histopathology tests, toxicology tests and physical-chemical tests.
The National Prosecution Office informed about the plans to exhume the Smolensk crash victims in June last year. Exhumations began in mid-November. By the end of December of last year, 11 bodies were exhumed. According to unofficial information, another irregularity was determined during the exhumations conducted in March. However, the Prosecution has yet to comment on it.
At the beginning of March, the spokeswoman of the National Prosecution Office told PAP that “we will not be able to finish the exhumations in 2017.” By the end of 2017, the Prosecution plans to exhume and examine 40 more bodies of the Smolensk crash victims, in 2018 – "there will be 28 more exhumations, which should be performed within the first half of the year," announced prosecutor Marek Kuczyński. “As regards exhumations, we planned to exhume and examine 40 bodies of Smolensk crash victims by the end of 2017. In total, the number of exhumations in 2017 is to be 46. In 2018, we plan to exhume and examine another 26 bodies and we plan to be done with them by the end of June 2018. This should be the end of the exhumations and autopsies” said the leader of the investigating team, prosecutor Marek Kuczyński.
He also said that the results of the examinations conducted to date confirmed that the decision of the Prosecution to exhume and examine the bodies again was legitimate.
‘At the moment, we are waiting for the first opinions of forensic science experts concerning the autopsies conducted at the turn of November and December of last year,’ said Kuczyński.