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Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council waves as he arrived at the prosecutor office in Warsaw, Poland April 19, 2017. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

(reuters_tickers)

By Marcin Goettig

WARSAW (Reuters) - European Council President Donald Tusk said on Wednesday he was under no doubt that Poland's right-wing government was trying to discredit him wit a smear campaign.

Tusk, a former Polish prime minister, was speaking as he was to testify in Warsaw as a witness in a military intelligence probe.

"I have no doubt that this is part of a political smear campaign. Its authors do not really hide it," Tusk told local media.

The 59-year old EU official is the ex-leader of Poland's largest opposition party, Civic Platform (PO), and arch-rival of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, head of the ruling, eurosceptic Law and Justice (PiS) party that has brought prosecutors under direct government control.

Tusk has been summoned to testify in an investigation against former heads of military counter-intelligence (SKW) suspected of co-operating with foreign intelligence services without the required authorisation of the prime minister, which was Tusk at the time.

A former SKW head has said that Tusk was fully aware of secret services' co-operation with Russia and had authorised it.

Tusk was greeted by hundreds of his supporters at Warsaw's central railway station. Chanting "Free, European Poland" they nearly blocked the platform and later escorted Tusk as he walked to the prosecutors office about a kilometre away.

Kaczynski, 67, had said before that Tusk should not be reappointed to chair summits of EU leaders because he may face charges in Poland related to a 2010 plane crash that killed the Polish president -- Kaczynski's twin brother Lech -- and a Ponzi scheme.

Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo was the only EU leader to object Tusk's reappointment at a summit on the issue. Although Kaczynski holds no government post, he is seen as Poland's main decision-maker.

Justice Minister and Prosecutor General Zbigniew Ziobro told state television on Wednesday that one may see that the Polish "establishment wants to portray Donald Tusk as victim and a mistreated politician."

"But Donald Tusk enjoys the benefits of Polish citizenship, while also having responsibilities to fulfil," Ziobro said.

The PiS party, which defeated PO in a 2015 election, has been accused by the EU's executive arm, the European Commission, of undermining rule of law and democracy following the party's overhaul of the constitutional court.

Tusk's plenipotentiary, Roman Giertych, said earlier in April prosecutors had threatened twice to use physical force against Tusk to bring him to the hearing despite his EU immunity.

The initial summons was for March 15, but Tusk could not take part due to prior engagements in the European Parliament.

Earlier in March, Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz, a close ally of Kaczynski, accused Tusk of actions amounting to diplomatic treason, saying he worked with Russia to harm Polish interests in connection with the 2010 plane crash over Russia's Smolensk.

(Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

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Reuters