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Poland exhumes former president's remains to test conspiracy claims in '10 plane crash

Doubts about the official version of the plane crash have endured in Poland for nearly seven years.

By
Doug G. Ware
Wreckage from a Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft is seen near Smolensk, in western Russia, on April 10, 2010. Former Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife Maria and a number of high-ranking military and civilian leaders died when the plane crashed as it attempted to land in thick fog. Monday, the Kaczynskis' bodies were exhumed as part of a new look into the crash. File Photo by Alex Natin/UPI
Wreckage from a Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft is seen near Smolensk, in western Russia, on April 10, 2010. Former Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife Maria and a number of high-ranking military and civilian leaders died when the plane crashed as it attempted to land in thick fog. Monday, the Kaczynskis' bodies were exhumed as part of a new look into the crash. File Photo by Alex Natin/UPI | License Photo

WARSAW, Poland, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- In the next few months, Polish authorities will dig up the decomposing remains of more than 80 people who were killed in a plane crash six years ago -- including former President Lech Kaczynski -- to try and determine whether the crash was an accident or an assassination.

Poland's governing party exhumed the bodies of Kaczynski and his wife on Monday, officials said, as part of the forensic examination. They are two of 83 bodies that will go through the exhumation and reexamination process for the investigation.

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Kaczynski, his wife Maria and 94 others -- including numerous government and military officials -- died on April 10, 2010, when their Russian-made Tupolev Tu-154 jetliner crashed in heavy fog in western Russia.

ARCHIVE April 2010: Polish president Kaczynski among those killed in plane crash

Also among the dead were former Polish President Ryszard Kaczorowski, the chief of Poland's General Staff and other senior military officers, the National Bank of Poland's president, 18 members of the Polish Parliament and senior members of the Polish clergy.

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An investigation by Poland's previous government ultimately determined that pilot error was the cause of the aircraft's descent into the ground. A subsequent and separate investigation by Russian officials, since the crash happened in Smolensk Oblast, reached the same conclusion.

The official conclusions, though, have never been widely accepted.

Mourners pays their respects near the coffins containing the remains of former Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his wife, Maria, at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, on April 14, 2010. The pair were killed with 94 others, including numerous government and military officials, four days earlier. File Photo by Henryk Jackowski/UPI/BEW

The right-wing ruling party in Poland has publicly questioned the veracity of the formal investigation and indicated when it took power last year that a reexamination of the fatal events was coming.

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Some of the alternate theories for the crash involve a bomb on board, deliberate flight misinformation given by Russian officials and outright negligence by the Warsaw government.

No evidence pointing to another cause, however, has ever been produced.

Forensic investigators will examine the remains to try and determine whether they contain any clues indicative of a cause other than pilot error.

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ARCHIVE December 2010: Poland rejects Russian report on deadly plane crash

Autopsies on the Kaczynski couple are underway but the results likely won't be announced for weeks.

"There will not be a free Poland, a truly free Poland, without the truth, without a proper honoring of those who died, without a closure of this case which has cast such a long shadow on our national and social life," Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the former president's twin brother and Polish prime minister at the time of the crash, said last week.

Poland's decision to exhume remains to test presidential assassination conspiracy claims is not unprecedented.

In 1981, the body of Lee Harvey Oswald, the accused assassin of U.S. President John Kennedy, was exhumed in Dallas to examine claims that his grave was actually occupied by a Soviet intelligence agent. Forensic examiners at Baylor University, though, ultimately determined the body was definitely Oswald's.

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