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Imprisoned Ukraine opposition leader pledges hunger strike in support of protesters

Ukraine's imprisoned opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko [personal website; JURIST news archive] announced on Monday [press release] that she would go on a hunger strike to show her support [Guardian report] for the demonstrators who have been protesting Ukraine's decision to abandon a planned EU trade pact. Demonstrators allege that Ukraine has caved to pressure from Russia. Tymoshenko, the former Ukrainian prime minister, was sentenced to seven years in prison [JURIST report] on charges of abuse of power and corruption. The EU has said that Tymoshenko's imprisonment is politically motivated [EU press release], and has demanded her release as a condition of signing the trade agreement. Tymoshenko has offered to ask the EU to drop this requirement if it will encourage Ukraine to make the agreement. President Viktor Yanukovych [BBC profile] has refused to release Tymoshenko.

Pending charges and the imprisonment of Tymoshenko have led to an international outcry for her release. Last month Yanukovych stated that he would sign a law [JURIST report] allowing for the release of Tymoshenko. In May the Ukraine Prosecutor General [official website, in Ukrainian] reopened [JURIST report] a murder case against Tymoshenko. The charges, originally filed in January [JURIST report], allege that Tymoshenko and former prime minister Pavlo Lazarenko [JURIST news archive] ordered the murder of Yevhen Shcherban and two others in 1996. The European Court of Human Rights [official website] ruled [JURIST report] in April that Ukraine violated the European Convention on Human Rights by jailing Tymoshenko for politically-motivated reasons. In January the state began investigating [JURIST report] her lawyer for several criminal charges. In September the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee [official website] unanimously passed [JURIST report] a resolution calling for Ukraine to release Tymoshenko from prison.

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