Critics want Poland's defense minister suspended over ties

Elzbieta Bienkowska, Michael Farrugia, Federica Mogherini, Peter Gajdosk, Jose Alberto Azeredo Lopes, Juri Luik, Antoni Macierewicz, Jens Stoltenberg, Tamas Vargha, Juri Niinisto, Krasimir KarakachanovThe Associated Press
From left, European Union commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska, Malta's National Security Minister Michael Farrugia, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, Slovakian Defence Minister Peter Gajdosk, Portuguese Defence Minister Jose Alberto Azeredo Lopes, Estonian Defence Minister Juri Luik, Polish Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Hungarian Deputy Defence Minister Tamas Vargha, Finnish Defence Minister Juri Niinisto and Bulgarian Defence Minister Krasimir Karakachanov gather for a group photo during the informal meeting of the EU ministers of defence in Tallinn, Estonia, on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Liis Treimann)

Poland's main opposition party on Wednesday called for the suspension of Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz over allegations he has secret ties with Russian military intelligence and mafia.

Bozena Kaminska of the Civic Platform party told The Associated Press that party lawmakers are "highly concerned" over media allegations, recently reinforced by the book "Macierewicz and his Secrets" by Tomasz Piatek, an investigative journalist for the Gazeta Wyborcza daily.

The book details the minister's alleged ties to a communist-era secret security agent and, recently, to a U.S. lobbyist, who, Piatek alleges, has indirect ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and also to a Russian mafia boss.

Macierewicz has a "key, command role in Poland's security and we urgently want the prime minister to have the situation clarified and Macierewicz suspended during that time," Kaminska said.

"We are most concerned by the possibility that classified defense data could be available to foreign secret services," she said.

Macierewicz has made no comments on the allegations. Following a motion from his ministry, prosecutors have opened an investigation into Piatek on allegations of threatening a state official. If convicted, Piatek could face up to three years in prison.

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Desir, told the AP he has not yet had any reply to a letter he sent to the Foreign Ministry urging the authorities not to use courts to silence the media.

Macierewicz frequently draws criticism for his statements or actions, such as the surprise last-minute cancellation of a major deal to purchase helicopters from a France-based maker. But he is also known for strong anti-Russian statements.

The request to Prime Minister Beata Szydlo to have Macierewicz suspended must first be approved by the parliament's defense commission, which is dominated by the ruling party. Kaminska said it may be refused, but that would be a sign that the matter should not be dropped.