Poland fires 2 for role in exposing Belarusian

AP News
Posted: Aug 16, 2011 10:13 AM
Poland fires 2 for role in exposing Belarusian

Poland's prosecutor general announced the dismissal Tuesday of two officials who played a role in giving Belarus financial data about a leading human rights activist _ information that resulted in his arrest.

In a huge embarrassment for Poland, prosecutors gave Belarusian police banking data on Ales Belyatsky, a prominent activist in the authoritarian state. Belarusian authorities then used that information to arrest him and file criminal charges against him earlier this month.

Poland is a strong advocate of the pro-democracy movement in neighboring Belarus and leaders here have expressed dismay that their country unwittingly helped the regime of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski issued an apology on Friday and vowed to improve efforts to support democracy, while Prime Minister Donald Tusk sharply criticized prosecutors.

Neighboring Lithuania also recently gave similar information to Belarus, something for which it too apologized.

Despite the apologies, experts say Poland and Lithuanian _ former communist states now in the European Union _ have harmed their reputations as trusted allies for the Belarusian opposition movement.

The "release of sensitive information about Belarusian opposition figures and groups has damaged Poland and Lithuania's reputations as havens for the Belarusian opposition," the U.S.-based analysis group, Stratfor, said in a note Monday.

Poland Prosecutor General Andrzej Seremet said the two dismissed over the matter are Krzysztof Karsznicki, the head of a section on international cooperation, and his deputy, Anna Wisniewska. He said they transferred the data, despite warnings from other experts and recommendations on how to act in such cases.

"Unfortunately, they (the warnings) were ignored," Seremet said.

Belyatsky is the leader of Vesna, the most prominent human rights group in Belarus. He was detained Aug. 4 and later officially charged 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 to help them pay fines.

Poland says Belarus took advantage of international procedures aimed at fighting crime and terrorism when they sought Belyatsky's banking data. Polish prosecutors transferred the data to Belarus in June.