Polish ex-official draws crowd, but judge clears court


WARSAW, Poland -- The superstar of the fallen Communist regime proved yesterday that he could still draw a crowd.

Jerzy Urban, Communist government spokesman for nearly a decade and the man Poles most loved to hate, went on trial yesterday for publishing alleged pornography -- a large, colorful anatomical drawing -- in his top-selling satirical weekly Nie.

Nie, which means "No" in Polish, has a circulation of over half a million. It frequently blasts the church, President Lech Walesa and the government and is the only outrageously opposition paper in Poland. Mr. Urban long has claimed that the pornography issue was a red herring to mask political baiting.

"This is a first attempt by the authorities to limit freedom of speech," he said yesterday.

Mr. Urban's weekly duels with Western reporters, and his acerbic wit gained him attention under communism.

The iconoclastic Nie has endeared him to those suffering from Poland's transition to capitalism.

Applause ripped through the packed Courtroom No. 352 as the short, bald, bespectacled editor entered. But it turned to whistles of indignation when Judge Krzysztof Sulej ordered the court cleared and the trial to proceed behind closed doors.

Bedlam broke out in the courtroom before the doors were closed. Fans, some wearing pro-Urban T-shirts, proffered for autograph copies of the magazine and invitations Mr. Urban had widely distributed.

Ginowewa Nowaczkiewicz, 72, brandished an umbrella and shrieked her desire to accompany the defendant to jail. "I was poor under the Communists, and I'm poor under this new regime," she said. "But Urban tells the truth. I read his paper from cover to cover."

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