Notorious Polish judge flees to Belarus, triggering investigation

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Polish prosecutors opened an investigation Monday after a Polish judge fled to the autocratic state of Belarus and asked for protection there.

The National Prosecutor’s Office said it is looking into suspicions that the judge was acting on behalf of a foreign intelligence service.

According to Belarus state media, Judge Tomasz Szmydt told journalists in Minsk, the Belarusian capital, that he was forced to leave Poland due to disagreements with the current authorities.

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The pro-European Union government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk took power in December vowing to restore democratic norms after eight years of rule by the right-wing Law and Justice party.

Polish flag

A Polish flag flies near the spire of the Palace of Culture and Sciences, Warsaw, Poland, Feb. 12, 2022. (Photo by STR/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Law and Justice, in power from 2015 to 2023, carried out a series of changes to the judicial system that gave the party more power over the courts and judicial bodies, eroding the democratic separation of powers. That led to a dispute with the European Union — one that the EU only closed on Monday.

Szmydt, a judge at the provincial administrative court in Warsaw, gained notoriety in 2019 when he and his then wife engaged in an online smear campaign against judges critical of the judicial changes made by Law and Justice.

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Szmydt reportedly appealed to Belarus’ longtime leader, Alexander Lukashenko, for his protection, saying he considers Belarus a “country with great potential” led by a “very wise leader” and a place where “you can live peacefully.”



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