Share This Page

Court: Tymoshenko jailing was rights abuse

| Tuesday, April 30, 2013, 10:21 p.m.

KIEV — Ukraine's jailing of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was a politically motivated violation of her rights, Europe's human rights court ruled on Tuesday, dealing a harsh blow to President Viktor Yanukovych who has insisted that the case against his top opponent was not political.

The prosecution of Tymoshenko, the country's most vocal opposition leader, has strained the former Soviet state's ties with the European Union and the United States. Tuesday's ruling put fresh pressure of Yanukovych to ensure Tymoshenko's release if he wants to sign a key cooperation agreement with Brussels later this year.

There was no immediate comment from the government, other than a promise to closely analyze the ruling.

Tymoshenko, a heroine of Ukraine's 2004 pro-democracy Orange Revolution who was instantly recognizable her blond braid wrapped around her head like a crown, was sentenced to seven years in prison in October 2011 after being convicted of exceeding her powers as premier while negotiating a gas contract with Russia.

The West has condemned Tymoshenko's jailing and other legal cases against her as politically motivated and insisted on her release.

Tymoshenko has accused Yanukovych of masterminding the legal campaign against her to keep her out politics. She insists her rights were violated when she was first jailed in August 2011 during her trial on charges of contempt of court. The Strasbourg-based court agreed unanimously that her jailing was “for other reasons” than those permissible by law.

In Kiev, Tymoshenko's defense team called on Yanukovych to honor the ruling and free her from jail soon. Her daughter Eugenia said that the ruling will be like the “first ray of sunlight” for her mother who is undergoing treatment for a spinal condition in a hospital ward where windows are shut and draped.

“The European court has recognized my mom as a political prisoner and now the authorities in Ukraine will no longer be able to deny this and deny the fact that she must be freed in the coming days or weeks,” a triumphant Eugenia Tymoshenko told reporters. “Today is the first step toward her complete political rehabilitation and she will be freed soon. Soon she will be completely cleared of all the false and absurd accusations.”

The Ukrainian government's response to the ruling was muted. In Strasbourg, Ukraine's Permanent Representative to the Council of Europe, Mykola Tochytskyi, stormed out of the courthouse after the ruling was read out. In Kiev, the Foreign Ministry said it is not ready to comment until It scrutinizes the ruling, while a government representative with the Court told the Interfax news agency that the government may appeal. Both sides have three months to do so.

Yanukovych has left Kiev on a short vacation and his spokeswoman could not be reached for comment on the prospects of the president releasing Tymoshenko.

In the past Yanukovych has insisted that the Tymoshenko case is not political, that Ukrainian courts are independent and that he cannot interfere in the legal proceedings. He has also resisted calls to pardon Tymoshenko on humanitarian grounds. Yanukovych has said that he will consider pardoning her after all the other legal proceedings against her are over. Tymoshenko has been charged with embezzlement, tax evasion and organizing the murder of a politician and businessman 17 years ago — charges she denies.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.