[JURIST] The Ukrainian parliament [official website] on Wednesday rejected four amendments to the country’s Criminal Code [materials]. Parliamentary deputies refused [RIA Novosti report] to include in the agenda for discussion proposed amendments to the Code, which were introduced by the opposition party led by former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko [personal website; JURIST news archive], who is currently on trial and faces seven years in prison if found guilty of exceeding her authority in January 2009 by signing a contract for Russian gas supplies to Ukraine without approval from her government. The bills containing the proposed amendments sought to decriminalize Article 365 of the Criminal Code, which stipulates jail time for abuse of office:
Excess of authority or official powers, that is a willful commission of acts, by an official, which patently exceed the rights and powers vested in him/her, where it caused any substantial damage to the legally protected rights and interest of individual citizens, or state and public interests, or interests of legal entities … if they caused any grave consequences, – shall be punishable by imprisonment for a term of seven to ten years with the deprivation of the right to occupy certain positions or engage in certain activities for a term up to three years.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych [official website; JURIST news archive] has faced strong Western criticism over the trial, which Tymoshenko and her supporters have called political motivated. Tymoshenko has said she expects to be found guilty.
Tymoshenko’s trial resumed at the end of September after a two-week recess [JURIST reports]. In August Yushchenko testified against [JURIST report] Tymoshenko, his former prime minister. That same month, the Kiev Appeals Court refused Tymoshenko’s appeal of her detention for contempt charges [JURIST reports]. Also in August, Kireyev rejected a request [JURIST report] from Tymoshenko to release her from prison. In July, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) [official website, in Ukrainian] announced that they are launching a criminal investigation [JURIST report] into United Energy Systems of Ukraine (UESU), an energy company at one time headed by Tymoshenko. 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 Yanukovych. Last May, prosecutors reopened a separate criminal investigation [JURIST report] into allegations that Tymoshenko attempted to bribe Supreme Court judges. 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.