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Ukraine's Tymoshenko Calls Trial a 'Political Lynching'


Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in court (June, 2011 photo)

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in court (June, 2011 photo)

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has denounced her abuse of power trial as a "political lynching," in her final statement to the court.

Speaking at the end of her trial Thursday, Ms. Tymoshenko called the trial a ploy used by President Viktor Yanukovych to rid himself of a dangerous political rival. Standing up after weeks of remaining seated in defiance of the judge, Ms. Tymoshenko said she is innocent, adding that no document had proven her guilt.

The 50-year-old Ms. Tymoshenko is on trial in Kyiv on charges of misuse of power over a gas deal signed with Russia while she led the government in 2009. She has not been convicted, but Ukrainian prosecutors have called for a seven-year jail term for the former prime minister.

Both U.S. and European Union officials have said the trial is politically motivated.

The issue is expected to be high on the agenda at an EU summit Thursday in Warsaw that will discuss relations with six of the bloc's eastern neighbors, including Ukraine. EU officials have warned the trial is damaging Kyiv's hopes of signing an association agreement by the end of this year, a key first step toward gaining EU membership.

Since she lost the presidential election against President Yanukovich, Ms. Tymoshenko has been an active member of the political opposition.

She is expected to be the main opposition candidate in next year's election, but will not be eligible to run if she is convicted.

Ms. Tymoshenko is one of some 400 officials under investigation for crimes allegedly committed while in office. Critics have noted that the only cases to come to trial involve political opposition figures.

Ms. Tymoshenko rose to fame in 2004 as the leader of Ukraine's "Orange Revolution" street protests, which forced the Supreme Court to toss out the results of a disputed election won by Mr. Yanukovich. Mr. Yanukovich won the last presidential election in 2010.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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