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Ukraine parliament delays vote on law that could release ex-PM Tymoshenko

The Ukrainian Parliament [official website] voted Friday to delay debate [press release] on a draft law that would change the way the criminal code punishes economic and administrative crimes and could result in the release of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko [JURIST news archive]. Instead of punishing certain economic crimes with imprisonment, the proposed law would instead impose a fine. This could mean the controversial seven-year sentence given to Tymoshenko in October would be reduced to a fine. The draft law entitled "On introduction of amendments into some legislative acts of Ukraine (as for humanization of responsibility for crimes in the sector of economic activity)" (No. 9221) was proposed by President Viktor Yanukovych [UNA report] earlier this year and was passed in its first reading. It was being brought before parliament for a final debate and vote when members of Tymoshenko's Bloc-Batkivschyna faction successfully delayed its consideration until next week. The draft law amends various sections [UNA report] of the Ukrainian criminal code, including Article 365 [text], under which Tymoshenko was convicted, in a way that would decriminalize economic and administrative crimes [Observer report].

Tymoshenko was convicted [JURIST report] in October of abusing her power when she signed a gas agreement with Russia that was alleged to have violated Article 365 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. Her prosecution has been highly controversial [JURIST comment] and has draw harsh criticisms from all over the world. The EU has condemned [JURIST report] her conviction as politically motivated and has indicated that it could harm Ukraine's bid for EU accession. In June, Tymoshenko filed a complaint [JURIST report] with the European Court of Human Rights 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 Yanukovych. 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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