WARSAW, Poland (AP) - Dozens of former Polish ambassadors are telling President Donald Trump that Poland's democracy is at risk and urging him to pressure the country's populist government during a coming visit to respect human rights and stop flouting the constitution.
"Mr. President, you are coming to a country where the rule of law is no longer respected," the Conference of Ambassadors of the Republic of Poland wrote in an open letter posted on its website late Monday.
Trump is to attend ceremonies in Warsaw on Saturday marking the 80th anniversary of the start of World War II, which began with Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland on Sept. 1, 1939. More than 40 other world leaders will also attend.
It will be Trump's second visit to Poland, where a nationalist right-wing government that shares his anti-migrant views welcomed him enthusiastically in 2017. Then, Trump gave a speech praising Poland as a defender of Western civilization without mentioning democracy or concerns voiced often by the European Union that the young democracy was veering off course.
At the time, the government was moving to restrict judicial independence, a process that picked up speed after Trump's visit. His visit now comes as the ruling party, Law and Justice, and the country's powerful Catholic church have been depicting gays and lesbians as threats to Polish society and to families.
That appears to be a campaign ploy ahead of parliamentary elections on Oct. 13 to appeal to the conservative heartland in a country where many people cling to their traditional Catholic values.
The former ambassadors write that "the process of flouting and bending our Constitution has been on the rise for several years."
"The division of powers is being dismantled and the independent judiciary is being destroyed. Human rights are curtailed, and the growing repression of political opponents and various minorities, be they ethnic, religious or sexual, is not only tolerated by the government, but even inspired by it."
They tell Trump: "Your powerful voice calling for tolerance and mutual respect, as well as compliance with the provisions of the Constitution and other laws, may have historical significance."
The ruling party has repeatedly denied accusations of violating democracy, noting that it came to power in free elections and that it still enjoys the approval of many Poles. It is by far the most popular party in the country, approval that is partly explained by generous welfare policies for families and farmers.
The Conference of Ambassadors is made up of 41 ex-ambassadors concerned the current government is eroding democracy and hurting the country's position on the global stage. It was formed in 2017, two years after Law and Justice took power, and some of its members were fired by the party.