Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko [personal website; JURIST news archive] was sentenced to seven years in prison [press release] on Tuesday on charges of abuse of power and corruption. Judge Rodion Kireyev also barred Tymoshenko from serving public office for three years and ruled in favor of a 1.5 billion hryvnias judgment against her. Despite the conviction, international support for Tymoshenko remains strong, with many calling for her release. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] called the trial politically motivated on charges that are not internationally recognizable offenses [press release]. The European Union (EU) [official website] announced that the treatment of Tymoshenko will have repercussions for Ukraine's EU accession [press release]:
The EU urges the competent Ukrainian authorities to ensure a fair, transparent and impartial process in any appeal in the case of Ms. Tymoshenko and in the other trials related to members of the former Government. The right of appeal should not be compromised by imposing limitations on the defendants' ability to stand in future elections in Ukraine, including the parliamentary elections scheduled for next year. The EU will reflect on its policies towards Ukraine. The way the Ukrainian authorities will generally respect universal values and rule of law, and specifically how they will handle these cases, risks having profound implications for the EU-Ukraine bilateral relationship, including for the conclusion of the Association Agreement, our political dialogue and our co-operation more broadly.Tymoshenko repeated her hope [press release] that the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] would overturn the verdict and stated her intention to appeal [press release]. In June, Tymoshenko filed a complaint [JURIST report] with the ECHR 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.
Last week, the Ukrainian parliament [official website] rejected four amendments to the country's Criminal Code [materials] that sought to decriminalize Article 365, which stipulates jail time for abuse of office [JURIST report]. Tymoshenko's trial resumed at the end of September after a two-week recess [JURIST reports]. In August, Yushchenko testified against [JURIST report] Tymoshenko, his former prime minister. That same month, the Kiev Appeals Court refused Tymoshenko's appeal of her detention for contempt charges [JURIST reports]. Also in August, Kireyev rejected a request [JURIST report] from Tymoshenko to release her from prison. In July, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) [official website, in Ukrainian] announced that they are launching a criminal investigation [JURIST report] into United Energy Systems of Ukraine (UESU), an energy company at one time headed by Tymoshenko. 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.