Tymoshenko to hear verdict Oct 11 amid EU concern

KIEV— Ukraine’s opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko will hear the verdict in her abuse of power trial from October 11, the judge said Friday, amid mounting pressure from the European Union for her freedom.

By (AFP)

Published: Fri 30 Sep 2011, 9:39 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 2:09 AM

The hearing came as EU leaders warned President Viktor Yanukovych, who is targeting European Union membership for his country, at a summit in Warsaw that the trial of the prime minister was a matter of grave concern.

“The court is going to deliberate until October 11,” judge Rodion Kireyev told the court as Tymoshenko shouted “Glory to Ukraine!” to her supporters cramped into the Kiev courtroom, who replied “Glory to the Heroes!”.

In another of the spats with Kireyev that has marked the three-month trial, Tymoshenko accused the judge of robbing her of her last words as he refused to give her until Monday to prepare a final statement.

“He has de-facto deprived me of my last words,” she complained.

Tymoshenko is on trial for signing gas deals while prime minister with Russia in 2009 that prosecutors say were overly advantageous for Moscow. She lost her job after being defeated by Yanukovych in February 2010 elections.

EU officials say such accusations should never have been brought to court and have raised concern about selective persecution of Tymoshenko and other former allies, including detained former interior minister Yuriy Lutsenko.

Prosecutors, who have said Tymoshenko sustained a loss to the budget of 1.5 billion hryvnia ($190 million), want a seven-year jail sentence.

Tymoshenko, who has been held under arrest since August, has said the trial is a bid by Yanukovych to eliminate his biggest rival from politics forever.

“What is happening here is a perfect example of dictatorship in Ukraine. No-one is interested in proof, evidence or the law,” Tymoshenko told the court earlier.

A conviction would severely endanger Ukraine’s hopes of signing an association agreement with the European Union this year which would be a first step towards its goal of joining the bloc.

“The verdict will show if Yanukovych really needs European integration for Ukraine,” said Tymoshenko, who in the last years has portrayed herself as a champion of Ukraine’s European future.

“And if it is delivered in a way that ignores the absurdity of this affair, it will be 100 percent proof that Yanukovych does not want Ukraine in the European family,” she added.

Embarrassingly for Yanukovych, the signs that the trial was finally moving to a conclusion came as he met EU leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Warsaw at the Eastern Partnership summit.

“We expressed our concerns about the fate of the former prime minister and we expressed our rejection of the possible selective use of judicial measures against members of the former administration,” EU president Herman Van Rompuy said.

“This is a serious matter and we are expressing ourselves very clearly on this question,” he added.

Earlier, in one of the first hints of a compromise solution Ukraine’s ruling party said it was ready to examine the possibility of decriminalising the charges that have been laid against Tymoshenko.

Regions Party deputy chairman Dmytro Shentsev, whose faction holds a clear majority in parliament, said it would examine the move if Tymoshenko was prepared to pay back the losses she caused to the state.

A Ukrainian official said Yanukovych had personally told EU leaders in Warsaw that parliament would add a clause concerning the Tymoshenko charges to an existing bill aimed at decriminalising a number of economic crimes.

“This was raised very cautiously, but in essence this is the idea,” the official, who asked not to be named, told AFP in Kiev.

Meanwhile, the defence has seized on a rare admission from prosecutors that several documents in the case investigation were dated April 31 — a date that does not exist. But the prosecution has insisted this should have no effect.

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