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Ukraine's Tymoshenko to Appeal Seven-Year Jail Sentence


Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko seen during her trial, at the Pecherskiy District Court in Kyiv, Ukraine, October 11, 2011.

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko seen during her trial, at the Pecherskiy District Court in Kyiv, Ukraine, October 11, 2011.

Lawyers for former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko have announced plans to appeal her seven-year jail sentence.

Tymoshenko was convicted by a Kyiv court Tuesday of abuse of power in a gas deal she brokered with Russia in 2009 that led to a nearly $200 million budget loss for Ukraine. The former prime minister has repeatedly said she is innocent. She has described the trial as "a political lynching," aimed at allowing President Viktor Yanukovych to rid himself of a political rival.

At a press conference Wednesday, attorney Yuriy Sukhov says he expects the defense team to have to go through the entire appeals process in Ukraine before bringing the case before the European Court of Human Rights.

International reaction to the verdict has been overwhelmingly negative. The United States said it was "deeply disappointed" in the conviction and sentencing and called the case politically motivated. Neighboring Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who oversaw the signing of the 2009 deal, told reporters it is "dangerous and counterproductive" to question the agreement.

The verdict is also expected to have a major impact on Ukraine's aspirations to sign an association agreement with the European Union, a key first step toward gaining EU membership. EU diplomats have warned that planned bilateral agreements on political association and free trade may never be ratified if Tymoshenko, who was expected to be the main opposition candidate in the 2012 elections, ends up in jail or is barred from running for office.

But President Yanukovych has also emphasized the court's decision was not final and his Regions Party has hinted that possible changes in the law could decriminalize the articles under which Tymoshenko was convicted.

Tymoshenko was 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.

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

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

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