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Court in Ukraine upholds Tymoshenko conviction

The top court in Ukraine has rejected an appeal filed by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. The judge upheld her conviction and seven-year jail sentence on charges of abuse of power.

The Ukrainian high court threw out Tymoshenko's appeal on Wednesday morning.

"The judicial panel has ruled that the appeal filed by Tymoshenko is not subject to approval," Judge Olexander Elfimov told the court, saying the judges had found "no grounds for the appeal."

The 51-year-old opposition figurehead was not present in court to hear the verdict. She is suffering from back pain and has been receiving treatment in a state-run hospital in eastern Ukraine. A group of around 100 of her supporters gathered outside the capital city court to protest the verdict.

Tymoshenko was convicted in October 2011 and sentenced to seven years in prison for alleged abuse of power during her time as prime minister. Domestic courts ruled that she inked a gas delivery contract with Russia, the terms of which saddled Ukraine with unfairly high prices for its energy imports.

She denies the charges and says that her imprisonment is politically motivated. Tymoshenko was long considered the prime political rival to President Viktor Yanukovych.

The ruling by Ukraine's highest court means that Tymoshenko has now exhausted her domestic appeal options, freeing her up to pursue the case at the European Court of Human Rights. The Strasbourg-based court began its consultations on Tymoshenko's case on Tuesday.

The businesswoman turned politician also faces separate charges of embezzlement and tax evasion dating back to her time in the private sector in the 1990s. That ongoing trial has been adjourned several times owing to her ill health.

msh/ipj (AFP, dpa, Reuters)