WARSAW, Poland -- Poland expelled the U.S. military attache and his wife Monday for allegedly taking photographs of military installations as a provocation aimed at aggravating U.S.-Polish relations.
In Washington, the United States responded by ordering the Polish milhtary attache in Washington to leave the country.
Polish government press spokesman Jerzy Urban denied a U.S. Embassy protest that alleged Col. Frederick Myer's wife, Barbara, was stripped naked and treated 'improperly' after being arrested with her husband.
Urban told Western journalists that Poland's Foreign Ministry had classified Myer as persona non grata -- a diplomatic euphemism for spy - and ordered him to leave the country within 48 hours.
'All indications are that Myer wanted to provoke this incident to further aggravate Polish-American relations,' Urban said.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Bernard Kalb called the treatment of the couple 'outrageous' and said a 'strong U.S. government protest' had been lodged with the Polish government in Washington and Warsaw.
Kalb said he could not comment on the spy charges but said there were 'absolutely no justification' for the actions taken.
The Reagan administration responded to Myer's expulsion by telling Polish military attache Col. Zygmunt Szymanski and his wife they had 48 hours to leave the country. Poland's top diplomat in Washington called the U.S. action a 'sharp unwarranted' step.
The State Department also announced further steps, including postponment of science talks with Poland and a delay in the return to Warsaw of the U.S. charge d'affaires.
Kalb said the Myers' detainment and treatment before they were expelled 'clearly represents a most serious violation of the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations to which we and Poland are signatories.
'The manner in which the involved U.S. citizens were handled by Polish security officers was particularly outrageous,' Kalb said. Asked whether the incident will affect U.S.-Polish relations, Kalb said, 'Of course it will.' He declined to be more specific.
Polish-U.S relations have been at a low ebb since the imposition of martial law in 1981 but they have slightly improved following the U.S. decision not to oppose Poland's entry into the International Monetary Fund.
Urban said Myer and his wife were caught photographing military objects near Przasnysz in northeastern Poland.
He said Myer was spotted near Przasnysz on Feb. 21 driving a Volvo car with Danish registration plates.
'He entered a military area despite the signs forbidding it,' said Urban. 'A man and woman were inside the car who were taking pictures.'
The car drove off toward the city of Makow Mazowiecki, where police stopped it at a road block, Urban said.
Urban said Myer and a woman who was later identified as his wife, Barbara, locked the car windows and covered themselves with a blanket.
'They refused to show their identity cards and showed V-signs with their fingers to the police through the window,' Urban said. 'It was a funny way of reacting taking into account that it was a military attache representing one of the superpowers.'
Later the two surrendered and identified themselves in the police station at akow Mazowiecki, said Urban.
Urban said that the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw sent a note of protest to the Polish Foreign Ministry the day after the Myers were arrested saying that Mrs. Myer had been treated 'improperly.'
Urban denied the protest that alleged Mrs. Myer was 'forced to undress and do humiliating physical exercises.'
'It is a libel,' he said. 'It is appalling that wives of diplomats are taken for spying missions. They do so as they know that women are treated with special reverence in this country.'
Urban showed a stack of photographs to reporters taken by the police showing a man and a woman inside the car flashing V-signs.
'Six reels of exposed film were found with Myer and his wife, maps of Polish military objects made by the Defense Mapping Agency Topographic Center and one unexposed frame which after developing showed a military aerial instalation,' said Urban.