Tymoshenko appeal rejection condemned

Thu, Aug 30, 2012, 01:00

THE EUROPEAN Union has condemned a decision by Ukraine’s high court to throw out former premier Yulia Tymoshenko’s appeal against a seven-year conviction for abuse of office.

The court said it found no grounds to overturn the conviction, which Brussels, Washington and allies of opposition leader Ms Tymoshenko believe is a politically motivated attempt by president Viktor Yanukovich to remove his most popular rival from the political stage.

“We have noted with regret the outcome,” said Michael Mann, a spokesman for EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton.

“We stress the importance for the Ukrainian authorities to take concrete steps to address the systemic problems of the judiciary,” he added, noting that former interior minister Yuri Lutsenko, an influential ally of Ms Tymoshenko, had also been jailed in dubious circumstances.

“These should also redress the effects of selective justice, including in the cases of Ms Tymoshenko, Mr Lutsenko and others, and prevent such failures from occurring again,” Mr Mann stressed.

“We are deeply disappointed with the consequences of the current situation, as two important leaders of the opposition are prevented from standing for parliamentary elections.”

Mr Yanukovich, who narrowly beat Ms Tymoshenko in a 2010 presidential election, insists the cases brought against leading opposition figures have no connection with their political rivalry or the October 28th election.

Several hundred supporters of Ms Tymoshenko, who was not in court due to health problems, protested outside the courthouse.

The hearing was attended by former European Parliament president Pat Cox and ex-Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski, as observers for the European Parliament.

Ms Tymoshenko is also on trial for tax evasion and embezzlement and is being investigated for alleged involvement in the murder of a business rival in the 1990s. She denies all the allegations.

“These findings have no relation to justice . . . This is a decision of Yanukovich to keep Tymoshenko in prison,” declared her lawyer Serhiy Vlasenko, who said he would file a full appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg by the end of the week.

“We will not give up our fight,” added Ms Tymoshenko’s daughter Yevgenia.

“We will seek justice because this is not something you can find in Ukrainian courts.”

The legal onslaught against opposition leaders has paralysed relations between Mr Yanukovich and the west, pushing him and his government closer to neighbouring Russia.