A Polish court on Monday ordered a record high compensation of nearly 13 million zlotys ($3.4 million) to a man who had spent 18 years in prison for a rape and murder of a teenager he didn’t commit.
Tomasz Komenda’s case has shocked Poland, and the right-wing government highlighted it as an example of why it says the justice system needs the deep changes it has been implementing.
Komenda, now in his mid-40s was arrested in 2000 over a 1997 rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl at a New Year’s village disco party. He was initially handed a 15-year prison term, which was later increased to 25 years, despite him protesting his innocence.
As a result of family efforts, the prosecutors reviewed the case and came to the conclusion that he couldn’t have committed the crime. Komenda was cleared after DNA tests, among other factors, showed that he wasn’t involved.
Komenda was acquitted of all charges and released in 2018, having wrongfully served 18 years of his term. He had been seeking 19 million zlotys ($5 million) in damages and in compensation.
A court in Opole ruled Monday that he should receive most of that amount — the highest ever compensation awarded in Poland. The verdict is subject to appeal.
Two other men have been convicted and handed 25-year prison terms in the 1997 case. Komenda’s story was told in 2020 Polish movie “25 Years of Innocence. The Case of Tomek Komenda.”