Supporters of former Polish Prime Minister and now European Council President Donald Tusk gathered at the Central Railway Station in Warsaw, Poland, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. Tuske has to testify in an investigation into an alleged secret deal between Polish and Russian intelligence officials. He is to be questioned by prosecutors in Warsaw as a witness. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Tense crowd meets Tusk who testifies in Polish investigation

April 19, 2017 - 6:32 am

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, was met at Warsaw's main train station Wednesday by hundreds of people — both supporters and angry opponents — as he prepared to testify in an investigation.

The mood at the train station was tense, with supporters of the former Polish prime minister carrying EU flags and chanting "Donald, we are with you!" while opponents accused him of crimes. One detractor held up a large mock-up photo depicting him in striped prison garb.

Tusk is only a witness in the current case — an investigation into alleged secret illegal contacts Polish and Russian intelligence officials at a time when he was still prime minister.

However, many see his questioning as part of a larger attempt by Poland's nationalist government to discredit him by linking him to scandals and perhaps imprison him eventually.

He has been accused by the Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz of treason in another matter, the handling of the 2010 plane crash in Smolensk, Russia, that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski.

Prosecutors have not revealed details of the alleged illegal contacts. But according to Polish media reports, the alleged illegal deal was aimed at allowing Polish investigators working on the Smolensk crash to operate on Russian soil.

Tusk called his questioning Wednesday part of a "political witch hunt."

Poland's current ruling party, Law and Justice, is led by the late president's twin brother, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, a nationalist politician who is a long-term political rival of Tusk's.

Kaczynski drove the failed effort last month to block Tusk from getting a second term as head of the European Council. Only Poland opposed Tusk's re-election, with 27 other EU members supporting another term for him.

Kaczynski has blamed Tusk for his handling of the Smolensk crash. He and others accuse Tusk of failing to oversee proper security for the presidential flight. They also fault Tusk for letting the Russians handle the main investigation and for failing to get the wreckage back.

Supporters of the government also blame Tusk for pro-business policies that they feel hurt the country. Those policies helped drive strong economic growth, but many Poles felt left out by the economic boom.

"Tusk should face justice for having brought Poland to ruins, for closing shipyards, scandals, for Smolensk, for working together with Russia. We still can't bring the wreckage back," said Halina Wojcicka, 74, a retired office clerk.

Those who rallied to support Tusk expressed opposition to Poland's larger political direction under Kaczynski, which opponents view as xenophobic and having authoritarian tendencies.

"I can see that harm is being done to Poland. The state of law is gone. The country is run by one person, driven by hatred," said Iwona Guz, a 60-year-old economist. "I am here to show that I want Poland to be in Europe, not in the East."

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