Poland's Justice Ministry is busy preparing for the speedy release from detention of all but a handful of former Solidarity activists and others detained during the 19 months of martial law.
A limited amnesty was announced last week in tandem with the lifting of martial law. It coincides with a meeting of Poland's Western government creditors to consider what could become a first concerted response to the lifting of martial law.
The United States made participation in such talks, tentatively scheduled for July 29, contingent on amnesty for most of those detained, arrested, or already tried and sentenced for violations of martial law.
Although the amnesty falls short of domestic and Western expectations, it does cover a wide spectrum: Those to be affected range from minors who scrawled slogans and circulated leaflets, to Solidarity and other activists who tried to reorganize unions or were involved in clandestine print and radio activity.
Last week it was said that those eligible for amnesty included most of some 190 ''political'' prisoners, 450 persons in pretrial custody, 687 persons (apparently) already pardoned, 182 persons punished for lesser offenses, and groups in hiding whose numbers are not precisely known.
According to Justice Minister Sylwester Zawadski, the amnesty covers:
* All minors and women over 50 years of age. Both groups are being released immediately, and Monday papers reported some had already returned home.
* Persons serving up to three years, whose sentences will be terminated.
* Those with longer sentences, which are to be cut in half or quashed altogether.
* All underground activists who come out of hiding before Oct. 31.
At the weekend, Piotr Kapszynski, a regional union officer in Gdansk who had worked clandestinely from the moment martial law was introduced, was reported to have turned himself in. After an interview at police headquarters he was freed, and it was said that proceedings under way against him were being dropped.
There is special interest in two categories of prisoners: those who received the heaviest sentences for union or other illegal activities, and the 65 political prisoners who have been designated ineligible for amnesty.
The recent reduction of the harshest sentences handed down by the military courts suggests how the amnesty procedure may work. The 10-year sentence given Ewa Kubasie-wicz, leader of a group that sought to keep Solidarity alive and to organize a strike in the Higher Maritime School at the Baltic port of Gdynia, was reduced to three. The sentences of her codefendants were reduced proportionately.
Among those being denied amnesty are five members of the dissident group KOR who have been held since the start of martial law. Charges against them have been built up steadily into a case of plotting to overthrow the state, even by violent means. Also ineligible are the seven Solidarity leaders formally arrested last December when much of martial law was suspended and the majority of the internees freed.
These two groups and a third from a miniscule organization calling itself Confederation for an Independent Poland are excluded from amnesty, it is said, because they worked against fundamental state interests.
The KOR leaders were among Solidarity's more extreme political and economic advisers. Therefore, says Justice Minister Zawadski, they were ''greatly responsible'' for events in 1981 that ''brought Poland to the brink of civil war.''
The KOR trial has been ready for months, but the authorities have been in no hurry to get it started. One wonders if there is now an idea that, given ''law and order'' after the amnesty and peaceful passage next month of the anniversary of the August 1980 agreements, the whole affair might best be given a low-key finale with a suitable show of leniency.
The group's principal figure is Jacek Kuron, a former left-wing communist who became prominent in the dissident movement after he broke with the Communist Party in the late '60s. Last year Mr. Kuron was paroled twice, first to attend his father's funeral, and again when his wife passed on. Now his son Macek is hoping he will be freed to attend his wedding this week.
A humanitarian gesture from the regime might indicate a wish to carry conciliation further by not proceeding with too heavy a hand against those outside the present amnesty.
As for the future prospects of those who are due for release in the next few weeks, Mr. Zawadski says ''all'' will be given an opportunity to make ''a fresh start,'' subject only to an undertaking not to resume ''unlawful'' activities. ''Nobody,'' he said, ''will face consequences for what he has been doing. This is a great opportunity, especially for the young people who allowed themselves to be led astray. . . .''
But that is a questionable proposition. Under martial law many people lost their jobs - particularly in the news media and in other politically sensitive areas - when they declined to recant their backing for reform. They were therefore counted ''unreliable.''
[Some reports indicate that, should any of those being freed be picked up on similar charges within 30 months, the unserved portion of their current sentence would be added to any new jail term.]