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European court says Ukraine violated Tymoshenko's rights

April 30, 2013|By Emily Alpert
  • Eugenia Tymoshenko, daughter of jailed Ukrainian opposition leader and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, speaks during a news conference in Kiev.
Eugenia Tymoshenko, daughter of jailed Ukrainian opposition leader and… (Sergey Dolzhenko / European…)

Ukraine violated the rights of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko by jailing her for political reasons during her trial in 2011, the European Court of Human Rights ruled Tuesday.

Tymoshenko, an opponent of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich's government, is serving seven years in prison for allegedly abusing her powers while negotiating a gas deal with Russia while she was prime minister. Many critics condemned her trial as politically motivated.

The charismatic opposition leader claims to have been mistreated while in detention and has brought several complaints to the European human rights court about her case.

The ruling Tuesday focused on whether Ukraine erred in detaining Tymoshenko before trial, not whether she was unfairly convicted in October 2011. The European rights court found that Tymoshenko had been detained arbitrarily and unlawfully, since there was no apparent evidence she was at risk of fleeing before trial. The court also concluded that Ukraine had not properly reviewed the legality of her detention.

Tymoshenko's daughter Eugenia declared Tuesday that the decision gave Ukraine the grounds to release her mother from prison. The European court “carefully studied all the violations of [her] rights, despite the brutal, false and dirty propaganda by the government," she said.

Ukrainian prosecutors defended detaining Tymoshenko. "The court order for Tymoshenko's arrest was absolutely legal in the summer of 2011" under an earlier criminal code, Mykhailo Shorin of the Prosecutor General's Office told Interfax news agency Tuesday. That code "said that arrest must be ordered if fears arise that the suspect may dodge or obstruct justice."

The European court said there wasn't enough evidence to support the complaint of mistreatment behind bars because Tymoshenko had refused to undergo "a full forensic medical examination." A separate case brought by Tymoshenko about the fairness of the trial is still pending at the European court. The former leader lost an appeal to overturn her conviction in a Ukrainian court.

Ukrainian officials told Interfax that they were still analyzing the decision Tuesday. The government has three months to appeal. Analysts interviewed by the Associated Press said it was unlikely that Ukrainian authorities would immediately free Tymoshenko.

The court decision could further frustrate Ukrainian efforts to build closer ties with the European Union, which held off on plans to sign an association agreement with Kiev after Tymoshenko was arrested. European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs chairman Elmar Brok said the Tuesday ruling confirmed the trial was politically motivated and called for Tymoshenko to be freed.

“Ukraine is still miles away from fulfilling European standards” and must “end its selective justice” before signing the association agreement, Brok said in a statement.

The agreement would enhance cooperation and trade between Ukraine and the EU, set forward common values and help integrate energy markets, according to the European Commission.

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