The head of the Council of Europe [official website; press release] on Monday advocated for free and fair parliamentary elections in Ukraine as he condemned the imprisonment of former prime minister and opposition party leader Yulia Tymoshenko [personal website; JURIST news archive]. Council Secretary-General Thorbjorn Jagland [official profile] had visited Ukraine to give a speech on the implementation of the Council's three-year €22 million action plan that includes 51 projects aimed at supporting Ukraine in bringing legislation, institutions and practice in line with European standards. During his trip Jagland met with President Viktor Yanukovych and Foreign Minister Kostyantyn Gryshchenko [official profiles] and urged Ukrainian authorities to conduct honest and lawful elections for Parliament next month. Jagland also met with opposition head Arsenyi Yatcinuk and denounced the jailing of Tymoshenko, 51, who has maintained that her abuse of office charges and seven-year prison sentence are politically motivated. Yanukovych will likely struggle to retain his majority in Parliament [AP report] since opposition forces have rallied around Tymoshenko's imprisonment. Both Spain and Switzerland have agreed to send election observers to Ukraine [Interfax-Ukraine report] next month to aid in assuring fairness and transparency. The elections are scheduled for October 28.
Last month the Ukrainian Supreme Court [official website, in Ukrainian] upheld Tymoshenko's abuse of office conviction [JURIST report], reasoning that there would be no basis to rule in favor of the former prime minister and that the prison sentence is appropriate considering the charges against her. During the appeal the government denied allegations that the criminal proceedings against Tymoshenko were a measure initiated by Yanukovych to prevent her from participating in the October elections. The decision came only a day after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] held a hearing [JURIST report] on Tymoshenko's appeal. Last week Ukrainian prosecutors urged the Supreme Court not to hear her appeal [JURIST report]. Prosecutors told the court that Tymoshenko's trial had already established her guilt in the case, and asked the judges to let stand a seven-year prison sentence [JURIST report] in the case. Tymoshenko was not present at the hearing due to health concerns. The hearing has been delayed [JURIST report] in the past due to Tymoshenko's absence. Yanukovych was narrowly elected [JURIST report] over Tymoshenko in 2010.