Autopsies begin on former Polish president, first lady

WARSAW, Poland (AP) " Autopsies began Tuesday on the bodies of former Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his wife as part of a new probe into the 2010 plane crash that killed them and 94 other prominent Poles.

The National Prosecutor's Office, which ordered the autopsies, said a team of experts performed computer tomography and that samples were being taken for genetic, toxicology, chemical and other tests. The team includes 14 forensic experts from Poland, Switzerland, Portugal and Denmark.

The tests are needed to allow experts to determine "the injuries the victims had suffered and the cause of their deaths, as well as for the reconstruction of the course of the crash" of the Soviet-made Tu-154M plane, the prosecutor's office said in a statement.

The plane crashed on April 10, 2010, on approach to a sporadically-used military airport in Smolensk, Russia. Separate investigations by both Polish and Russian experts blamed pilot error in bad weather conditions. The crash killed a huge swathe of Poland's political and military elite.

The new probe was ordered by Poland's conservative ruling party, Law and Justice, which is led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the late president's twin brother, who questions the previous findings.

The autopsies are an attempt to establish whether the crash was an accident or an assassination, as some Kaczynski followers believe. A total of 83 bodies are to be exhumed and examined through 2017. Families of 17 of the victims are protesting the exhumations as needless and cruel.

Among other things, experts will be looking for traces of explosives and injuries that could result from an explosion.

The bodies of the presidential couple are to be returned Friday to their tomb at the Wawel Cathedral in the southern city of Krakow in a private ceremony, the prosecutor's statement said.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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