High-Level Judge Defects to Belarus, Cites Opposition to Government's Russia Policy

Written by Camilla Jessen

May.07 - 2024 10:06 AM CET

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Photo: Shutterstock.com
Photo: Shutterstock.com
High-level judge seeks political asylum in Belarus.

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The high-level Polish judge Tomasz Szmydt has sought political asylum in Belarus, citing his dissent against the Polish government's policies toward Belarus and Russia as his primary motivation.

Szmydt, known for his allegiance to the previous government led by the Law and Justice Party (PiS), made his intentions public on Monday through a letter published on the social media platform X.

Resignation and Protest

In his letter, Szmydt announced his immediate resignation from his position as a judge at the Warsaw Administrative Court.

He criticized the “unjust and harmful policies of the Republic of Poland” towards Belarus and Russia, stating, “It is also an act of protest against efforts pushing my country toward a direct military conflict with the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation,” addressed to the court’s president, Jacek Chlebny.

In his letter, Szmydt also urged Polish authorities to “normalize and regulate good neighborly relations” with both Minsk and Moscow.

During a press conference in Minsk, Szmydt commended Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko's regime for managing a “flourishing country” and criticized the Polish government for being overly influenced by the US and the UK.

The reaction in Poland was swift and severe, with figures from both the government and the presidential office expressing their disdain, labelling Szmydt a "scoundrel and traitor."

Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski described Szmydt’s announcement as “shocking” and difficult to comment on.

The PiS Aspect

In 2019, the Polish news outlet Onet disclosed that Szmydt was part of an informal group of judges aiming to discredit those disloyal to the PiS government, in what was later known as 'Hatergate.'

Despite his shift in allegiance in 2022, exposing what he saw as unethical behavior by pro-government judges, his asylum request is viewed by some in the current Tusk government as a stain on PiS’s record.

While Poland’s stance towards Russia has been consistent regardless of the ruling party, Tusk’s KO and PiS have accused each other of aligning with Kremlin interests against Warsaw.

“West or East? Europe or Russia? KO or PiS? These are the choices facing Poland today,” Tusk posted on X.

“Every day we learn more facts that confirm the importance of these elections. Let no one pretend any longer not to see it,” he concluded.

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