Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko [personal website; JURIST news archive] was fined $2,000 on Wednesday for contempt of court after a hearing in Kiev. The judge assessed [Kiev Post report] the fine after the hearing, which was being held in connection with an investigation of the murder of Ukrainian parliamentarian Yevhen Scherban, in which Tymoshenko is a suspect. Prosecutors allege that Tymoshenko contracted someone to kill Scherban. However, Tymoshenko claims the charges are fabricated and the state is merely looking for a "scapegoat" [press releases]. Tymoshenko was not present at this hearing and instead sent a letter on her behalf which the judge found to contain elements of contempt.
Tymoshenko's trial has been the subject of much controversy. Last month, the state began investigating [JURIST report] her lawyer for several criminal charges. Tymoshenko has already been sentenced to seven years [JURIST report] in prison on corruption charges and is currently awaiting trial for charges of tax evasion [JURIST report]. That trial has been postponed [JURIST report] multiple times since it began in April. All of the controversy has encouraged criticism from the international community. In September the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee [official website] unanimously passed [JURIST report] a resolution calling for Ukraine to release Tymoshenko from prison. It condemned the current Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych [official website] for his role in the politically motivated imprisonment. In August 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 PM and that the prison sentence is appropriate considering the charges against her.