The mayor of Gdańsk Paweł Adamowicz has passed away in hospital following a brutal stabbing attack on the evening of January 13.
Mr Adamowicz was speaking in front of thousands of people at a charity event when the presumed attacker, later named by the police as Stefan W., stormed the stage and stabbed the mayor in what appears to have been an assassination attempt.
Mr Adamowicz, who has served as mayor of Gdańsk since 1998, was resuscitated at the scene and rushed to a nearby hospital where he underwent surgery. He died around midday on January 14.
Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said: “The killing of Paweł Adamowicz is a massive tragedy for all of us. It’s a great evil that calls for condemnation, great sadness, and sorrow. Deepest condolences to his bereaved family. Rest in peace.”
Video footage of the incident shows the assailant, who according to police sources is a convicted criminal with a history of violence, addressing the crowd from a microphone on the stage. He is reported as saying: “Hello! Hello! My name is Stefan. I sat innocent in prison, I sat innocent in prison. Civic Platform tortured me, and that’s why Adamowicz is dead.”
While Mr Adamowicz was previously a member of Civic Platform – the party which governed Poland from 2007-15 – he later left the party to stand for mayor as an independent.
He has since then become a highly vocal critic of the nationalist Polish government, and a staunch defender of liberal, European values, including the rights of migrants.
“I am a European so my nature is to be open,” Mr Adamowicz said in an interview with the Guardian in 2016. “Gdańsk is a port and must always be a refuge from the sea.”
Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro has said that prosecutors are looking closely at the trial five years ago of the man accused of stabbing the mayor.
The suspect was convicted of involvement in bank robberies and served his five year and six months prison term in full – he was refused parole three times. Mr Ziobro, who is also Poland’s chief prosecutor, said the term was not very high given the crime
“I find no words to describe the evil of this terrible event,” added Mr Ziobro, a prominent figure in the right-wing government of the Law and Justice party.