Poland's prime minister lambasted prosecutors Friday for giving Belarusian police confidential financial information on a prominent human rights activist _ information that contributed to his arrest and allowed Belarusian authorities to file criminal charges against him.
"The prosecutors' action is clearly incompetent. The word 'stupidity' comes to mind," Prime Minister Donald Tusk said at a news conference in Warsaw, following an apology from Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski.
"This is a scandalous mistake by the prosecutors," Tusk said. "It certainly needs to be explained."
The incident comes as an embarrassment for Warsaw, which has made it a key foreign policy goal to support the pro-democracy movement in Belarus, the authoritarian ex-Soviet nation on its eastern border.
The Foreign Ministry said Belarus had "taken advantage" of international procedures in requesting banking information about Ales Belyatsky _ one of Belarus' leading rights activists. Polish prosecutors transferred the data to Belarus in June.
Belyatsky is the leader of Vesna, the most prominent human rights group in Belarus. He was detained Aug. 4 and officially charged Friday with "large-scale tax evasion," a crime punishable by up to seven years in jail, if he's convicted.
Vesna said Belyatsky had to use accounts in Poland and Lithuania to get cash from donors as the Belarusian law left him no other option to receive funds for helping political prisoners and government critics in Belarus. Vesna used the money to provide legal assistance to people convicted on politically-driven charges and help them pay fines.
"Belarusian authorities are taking revenge against Belyatsky for his efforts to help Belarusian victims of repression and his rights activities," said Vesna activist Tatyana Revyaka. "We consider Belyatsky a prisoner of conscience."
The U.S. Embassy in Minsk condemned Belyatsky's detention as "another, unfortunate sign of Belarus' self-isolation and further deviation from European standards and principles."
The Polish Foreign Ministry said Belarus found a way "to use the system of international procedures and agreements on financial transfers _ meant to control the contemporary terrorist and criminal threats _ in order to use them for repressive action against the country's own citizens."
Sikorski apologized on Twitter Friday and vowed to improve efforts to support democracy.
"I apologize in the name of the Polish republic. A reprehensible mistake despite warnings from the Foreign Ministry. We will redouble efforts for democracy in Belarus," he wrote.
Polish prosecutors said Friday that they were conducting an internal review to determine how the information got transferred to Minsk. They refused to comment further.
Lithuanian authorities also provided information on Belyatsky's activities _ cooperation which Vesna said "created favorable conditions for initiating a criminal case" against him.
Yuras Karmanau contributed to this report from Minsk, Belarus.