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Fugitive Polish judge denies spilling national secrets

Officials in Warsaw have branded Tomasz Szmydt a traitor after he fled to Belarus

A Polish judge who announced his resignation after fleeing to Belarus has denied claims that he could compromise his homeland’s national security.

Tomasz Szmydt announced his resignation as a judge at Warsaw’s Provincial Administrative Court during a surprise press conference in Minsk on Monday. Poland has depicted Szmydt, who also headed the legal department at the National Council of Judges and had security clearance, as a potential traitor who could reveal state secrets to Belarus and its ally Russia.

“We cannot ignore this matter,” Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said during a cabinet meeting, adding that Szmydt “had access to classified documents to which no intelligence service should have access.” Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski has branded the former judge a traitor and condemned his actions.

Szmydt, however, has denied the accusations against him. “I did not bring any secret documents here [to Belarus],” he told RIA Novosti on Tuesday. “I did not reveal any secrets. I am not being asked to.”

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Considering the outrage in Poland, Szmydt believes he would be criminally prosecuted in his homeland for no reason other than his secrecy clearance. “It would mean prison for me [if I returned]. Proceedings are underway to charge me with espionage for Belarus and Russia,” he said.

The Polish leadership has claimed Szmydt developed contacts with the Belarusian government over a lengthy period. Tusk implied that the official was part of a campaign under the previous conservative government that had “the goal of devastating the Polish legal system.”

Warsaw adopted legal reforms under the previous government headed by the Law and Justice (PiS) party, which critics in the EU claimed were an encroachment on the separation of powers. On Monday, the European Commission announced that Brussels is ending its six-year dispute with Warsaw over its domestic policies, praising Tusk for changing the country’s course since he returned as prime minister in December. Unlike his nationalist predecessors, Tusk is an avowed ally of Brussels.


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Szmydt has claimed that his surprise flight to Minsk was meant as a gesture of protest against escalating tensions between Warsaw and Moscow over the Ukraine conflict.

“Poland could be directly dragged into [the hostilities], which would involve the deployment of Polish troops to the territory of Ukraine,” he told RIA Novosti. “Mercenaries and so-called instructors have been there for a long time, but now there is talk about an official deployment of troops.”

 

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