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Ukraine court dismisses ex-PM Tymoshenko's defense attorney

A Ukraine court on Monday dismissed Serhiy Vlasenko, a lawyer representing former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko [personal website; JURIST news archive], from judicial proceedings. Vlasenko had been defending Tymoshenko in a criminal case related to United Energy Systems of Ukraine (UESU), an energy company at one time headed by the former prime minister. The Pechersky District Court of Kiev dismissed Vlasenko [Interfax report] saying he was responsible for systematic violation of order in the court, in contempt of court and responsible for obstruction of justice with disregard for the rule of law. Tymoshenko said on her website that the dismissal is an attempt to deprive her of effective counsel [press release] and criticized that the proceedings are being held behind closed doors. Vlasenko said he will appeal the dismissal [Kyiv Post report]. Tymoshenko's ongoing trial includes charges of abuse of office in connection with signing gas import contracts with Russia, misappropriating state funds and abuse of authority [JURIST reports] by purchasing "1000 Opel Combo" medical vans at a 20 percent mark-up during her time as prime minister from 2007-2010. UESU allegedly embezzled USD $405 million from the government.

Earlier this month, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) [official website, in Ukrainian] announced that they are launching a criminal investigation [JURIST report] into UESU. Last month, Tymoshenko filed a complaint [JURIST report] with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website], alleging violations of the European Convention of Human Rights [text, PDF]. The complaint argued that the charges against Tymoshenko are politically engineered by current Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych [official website, in Ukrainian], Tymoshenko's political rival. ECHR President Jean Paul Costa refused to comment on the complaint [Korrespondent report, in Russian], but said the matter was before the court. The current combined case against her is not the first time she has been prosecuted. Last May, prosecutors reopened a separate criminal investigation [JURIST report] into allegations that Tymoshenko attempted to bribe Supreme Court judges. Tymoshenko's government was dissolved in March 2010 after she narrowly lost the presidential election to Yanukovych. Tymoshenko had alleged that widespread voter fraud allowed Yanukovych to win the election.

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