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Ukraine court sentences former defense minister for abuse of power

The Pechersky District Court in Kyiv on Thursday sentenced former acting defense minister Valeriy Ivaschenko to five years in prison and banned him from holding public office for three years after convicting him on abuse of power charges. Ivashenko served as acting defense minister under Yulia Tymoshenko [official profile; JURIST news archive] in 2009-10. The verdict was announced [BBC report] upon the court's finding that there was sufficient evidence concerning his alleged involvement in an illegal privatization of a shipbuilding and mechanical plant in the Crimean port of Feodosiya in 2009. His signing of the plan allegedly caused the country to suffer damages in its budget of around $9 million. Ivaschenko's lawyer plans to appeal the decision, denying that his client was involved in any illegal actions. The US embassy in Kyiv [official website] also criticized Thursday's ruling in a brief statement: "we are deeply disappointed in this latest example of selective justice in Ukraine and call for his release, particularly given the state of his health after 18 months in pre-trial detention."

Ivaschenko is one of several members of Tymoshenko's administration to be sentenced for abuse of power. Former interior minister Yuriy Lutsenko and former ecology minister Georgy Filipchuk were both sentenced to four and three years of imprisonment for abuse of office and corruption charges, respectively. Tymoshenko herself was sentenced [JURIST report] in October to seven years in prison on similar charges. Her prosecution has been highly criticized internationally as politically motivated. In March, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] urged [JURIST report] the Ukrainian government to ensure that Tymoshenko is receiving adequate medical treatment. In December, the European Commission expressed its concern [Kyiv Post report] that the Ukrainian hearings in prison do not conform with the European Convention on Human Rights. Additionally, the EU has called [JURIST report] Tymoshenko's conviction "a violation of human rights and an abuse of the judiciary designed to silence Ukraine's leading opposition politician."

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