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Polish judge who fled had access to classified documents: Tusk

Polish PM Tusk warns Europe has entered 'pre-war era'
Source: Video Screenshot

A Polish judge who fled to neighbouring Belarus and reportedly asked for political asylum over spying allegations he denies, had access to classified information, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Tuesday.

Belarus announced on Monday that judge Tomasz Szmydt had crossed into the Moscow-allied state, with whom Poland has tense relations, particularly since the start of the war in Ukraine.

“We have to be aware that the Belarusian services are working with a person who had direct access to the (former) justice minister… and several classified documents that no intelligence service should be able to get their hands on at any cost,” Tusk told reporters.

Szmydt was close to Poland’s former governing right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party, which lost power to the current pro-European Union coalition late last year.

After he fled to Belarus, prosecutors in Warsaw launched an inquiry into possible espionage against him.

Poland’s ABW secret services said separately that they were checking “the extent of the classified information to which the judge had access”.

The prime minister said a meeting of special services officials had been called for Wednesday.

“The question of the alleged influence of Russia and Belarus within the Polish power apparatus over recent years will be the subject of this meeting,” Tusk said on X, formerly Twitter.

The crime of espionage comes with a sentence of at least eight years in prison.

“Szmydt’s ties with the Belarusians go back a long way, (not just) the past few months,” Tusk said.

The judge and his ex-wife had taken part in an online campaign attacking judges who spoke out against reforms the PiS had introduced to the Polish legal system.

The EU and Washington said the reforms undermined the independence of Poland’s courts.

Among other things, Szmydt has ruled on cases involving security certificates for secret classified information concerning NATO, the EU and the European Space Agency, according to media reports.

He has also worked at the Ministry of Justice and the Trade and Companies Registry.

He took part in a programme by Russian presenter Vladimir Soloviov, described by the US State Department as “the most energetic pro-Kremlin propagandist”.

In a message published on Monday in Russian and Polish, Szmydt complained he was the target of “fabricated” accusations of spying.

He said the Polish authorities were “leading the country to war, under the influence of the United States and United Kingdom“.

Relations between Warsaw and Minsk have been strained for years, due to a political crackdown in Belarus and a tussle over migrants.

They have sunk to new lows since President Alexander Lukashenko backed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Belarusian state news agency Belta said on Monday that Szmydt had asked the autocratic Lukashenko for asylum.

“This is an act of protest against Poland’s politics towards Belarus and Russia,” Belta quoted Szmydt as telling a press conference in Belarus.

Tusk warned on Tuesday that Belarusian and Russian secret services could target countries in the EU, of which Poland is a member, before the European Parliament elections in early June.

“Indications of a very aggressive presence — by foreign services that are hostile to us in Europe — are getting stronger day by day and will continue to intensify due to the European elections,” the centrist leader said.

“We need to be aware of this.”

“We should have no illusions as to the objective Moscow and Minsk have set themselves over the coming months,” said Tusk, after meeting European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen in the southern city of Katowice.

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AFP

Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.







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