A list of 240,000 names kept on file by Poland's communist-era secret service has been published on the internet. The files lists suspects, operatives and potential collaborators, and by Wednesday had become the most searched-for subject online in Poland.

Under Polish law only a limited number of people, including historians and journalists, can access the files. However, the leak was sprung after Polish journalist Bronislaw Wildstein retrieved the names legally from the National Remembrance Institute (IPN) and distributed the information to colleagues. It is not known who went on to publish the list on the internet.

The IPN has said that people listed in the files are not automatically agents or collaborators and warned against using the names for political battles.

Politicians, preparing for parliamentary and presidential polls in the country, described Mr Wildstein's actions as 'irresponsible'.

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