Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has been asked for political asylum by a Polish judge. EPA-EFE/VYACHESLAV PROKOFYEV / SPUTNIK / GOVERNMENT PRESS SERVICE POOL MANDATORY CREDIT


Polish judge ‘seeks asylum in Belarus’


Tomasz Szmydt, a Polish judge with the Regional Administrative Court in Warsaw (WSA), has reportedly sought “protection” with the Belarusian authorities and asked Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko for “asylum”, at a specially organised press conference in the country.

Szmydt claimed his decision to leave his job and Poland was due to political persecution there based on his opposition to the Government, which he accused of “leading the country to war under the influence of the United States and Great Britain”.

The judge on May 6 gave a press conference at the Minsk headquarters of BelTA, the state-owned Belarusian news agency that functions as a mouthpiece for Lukashenko regime.

Szmydt described Belarus as an “open and friendly country” and praised Lukashenko as a “very wise leader” who has “done a lot to keep peace in our region”. He also accused the West of “trying to destroy Belarus”.

The unfolding situation has prompted swift action from Poland’s security agencies. The country’s Internal Security Agency launched an investigation into the matter focusing on the extent of classified information Szmydt could have accessed during his tenure as judge and to ascertain whether or not he was a Belarusian spy.

On June 4 last year, Szmydt was assigned to classified sessions in a special courtroom regarding cases against the Prime Minister’s Office and involving information labelled “confidential”, “NATO SECRET”, “ESA SECRET”, “EU SECRET”.

The judge was appointed to his post during the lifetime of the last administration of Donald Tusk  in 2012.

He and his ex-wife were involved in a controversial case under the previous Conservative (PiS) government in which figures linked to the justice ministry were accused of conducting a smear campaign against judges critical of the PiS’ judicial reforms.

Both Szmydt and his ex-wife later became whistleblowers who revealed details of the operation to the media and apologised for their actions.

The latest incident seems to have parallels with Polish army deserter Emil Czeczko who in 2021 fled to Belarus also seeking asylum. The following year, Belarusian authorities announced he had been found dead due to hanging at his home in Belarus.

Pavel Latushka, a former Belarusian minister and ambassador to Poland told Polish Press Agency (PAP) the judge will be used by Belarusian authorities’ propaganda machine to paint Poland as a warmonger and a country suffering problems with rule-of-law.

Latushka predicted that, for the first few months, Szmydt would be treated like a hero and may even be given government hosing – although the authorities will soon tire of him and, warned the former minister, his fate may in the end be similar to that of Czeczko.

Polish-Belarusian relations deteriorated markedly in 2020 when Poland actively backed protests against Lukashenko’s rigging of a presidential elections. In the following year, the Belarusian regime facilitated a wave of attempted border crossings into Poland by illegal migrants from Asia and Africa.

Poland has also clashed repeatedly with the Lukashenko regime over repression suffered by the Polish minority in Belarus, some of whom have been imprisoned.