Acquitted man after 18 years in prison: now I feel free

The Strzelin Redemption: Tomasz Komenda with his mother Teresa Klemańska (L) and his representative Zbigniew Ćwiąkalski (R) at a press conference in Warsaw, Poland. Photo: PAP/Paweł Supernak

Poland’s supreme court acquitted a man from southern Poland who spent nearly two decades in prison, on Wednesday.

Tomasz Komenda, 42, was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment in 2004 over the rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl. He was conditionally discharged on probation from prison in March.

Mr Komenda, fighting back tears, at a press conference, said: “I feel as if I only got my freedom today. When I was in the prison I prayed to the Pope...I’ll go to Rome.”

He also spoke of wanting those responsible for the miscarriage of justice face charges. “I won’t sleep, till they feel what I felt for all those years,” added Mr Komenda.

Zbigniew Ziobro, Poland’s Minister of Justice and Public Prosecutor General of Poland, who has been at the forefront of recent Polish judicial reforms, was quoted as saying by the Polish PAP press agency that “this ruling restores the sense of dignity to Tomasz Komenda as an innocent man.”

New evidence uncovered by the prosecutor's office proved that at the time the crime was committed, Tomasz Komenda was about 25km away from the scene.

The case was reopened by the prosecutor’s office after a direct request from the mother of the victim to the Polish Justice Minister in early 2017. Another suspect, Ireneusz M, was apprehended in June 2017 and has since been charged with the murder. All charges against Mr Komenda were dropped.

The victim, a girl known only as Małgosia K, as her surname is withheld, had been at a nightclub with her friends on the night of December 31, 1996, but had disappeared. Her brutally murdered body was found the following day.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki while promising PLN 4,000 monthly payment to Mr Komenda in March said that while the amount would cover his every day costs, “nothing can make up” to him for the time he spent behind bars.

Zbigniew Ćwiąkalski, a former Justice Minister and Public Prosecutor General of Poland, now representing Mr Komenda said that he would “demand for PLN 10 million” (EUR 2.34 million) as compensation.