Donald Tusk testifies at trial in Poland involving death of former president in plane crash

Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, faced over two hours of questioning in a Warsaw court on Monday as he gave evidence in a trial connected a 2010 air disaster that claimed the lives of the Polish president and dozens of the country’s political and military elite.

Mr Tusk’s appearance in court made headlines in Poland given that Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of Poland’s ruling party and the twin brother of the late president Lech Kaczynski, has said he holds him responsible, in part, for the tragedy, which he suggests was an assassination organised by Russia.

The council’s president was Polish prime minister at the time when the plane carrying President Kaczynski crashed as it came into land at Smolensk airport in western Russia, killing all 96 on board.

Political observers say Mr Kaczynski is using the trial to try to tarnish Mr Tusk, who still has significant political potential in Poland.

Mr Tusk faced hours of questioning into events surrounding the incident as he gave evidence in the trial of Tomasz Arabski, his former office chief from his days as prime minister, and four other officials. 

Donald Tusk faced hours of questioning into events surrounding the incidentCredit:

The five are in court following a private prosecution organised by some families of victims who claim they failed in their official duties to ensure the safety of the flight.

Although he praised Arabski’s work Mr Tusk said he that it was “not the prime minister’s job to monitor individual officials,” and that he had no role or influence when it came to the organisation of a presidential visit abroad.

“It is not and should not be the task of the prime minister or the president to influence any decisions as to place of the landing, the time of the landing, the destination, the type and the choice of the plane,” he said.

Since 2010 Mr Kaczynski and his supporters have insisted the disaster was not an accident, and have rejected the findings of official investigations that blamed factors such as pilot error and the weather for the crash.

Despite proposing a number of conspiracy theories about the disaster they have so far also failed to produce hard evidence proving the plane was brought down by criminal activity.

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