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Mayor of Polish city dies after stabbing at charity event

Paweł Adamowicz, the mayor of the Polish city of Gdańsk, has died after he was stabbed in the chest on stage at a charity concert on Sunday evening.

The 53-year-old, who had held the post since 1998, had surgery overnight in hospital that lasted more than five hours.

“We couldn’t win,” said the Polish health minister Łukasz Szumowski. Szumowski said that the doctors who were fighting to save Adamowicz’s life informed him the mayor had died.

The alleged assailant, a 27-year-old from Gdańsk with a record of violent crime, was released from prison last month, it emerged on Monday. After the attack, the assailant told the crowd he blamed Adamowicz’s former political party Civic Platform for his jailing in 2014 for a series of violent attacks.

Adamowicz, a popular, liberal mayor, had long been considered a hate figure in far-right circles for his vigorous defence of migrants and refugees and LGBT rights, but no evidence has emerged that the attack was politically motivated.

Some in Poland are blaming the attack on a more general rise in social tensions and an increasing prevalence of hate speech in public discourse. Even before his death silent protests had been planned in a number of cities on Monday.

The assassination of Adamowicz, a six-term mayor who often mingled freely with citizens of his city, sent Poland into shock. In Gdańsk, the city flag was lowered to half-staff and a mass was planned for later in the day.

Politicians across the political spectrum condemned the stabbing, including members of the ruling nationalist Law and Justice Party (PiS), such as Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and the interior minister Joachim Brudziński. Adamowicz was known as an opponent of PiS.

“I’m expressing great pain for the tragic death due to the criminal attack on mayor Paweł Adamowicz. We express solidarity with his family,” Jarosław Kaczyński, the country’s ruling party leader, was quoted as saying in a tweet from the party spokeswoman. The Polish president Andrzej Duda will meet with party leaders later on Monday to organise a march against violence and hatred in the wake of the attack.

Adamowicz was part of the democratic opposition formed in Gdańsk under the leadership of Lech Wałęsa during the 1980s. After leaving Civic Platform, he was re-elected to a sixth term as an independent candidate in the fall.

As mayor, he was a progressive voice, supporting sex education in schools, LGBT rights and tolerance for minorities. He showed solidarity with the Jewish community when Gdańsk synagogue had its windows broken last year, strongly denouncing the vandalism.

It is understood Adamowicz’s wife, Magdalena, was in the UK during the attack. The Polish government sent a plane to London to bring her back to Poland.

Associated Press contributed to this report

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