Amid reports that Yulia Tymoshenko received ill treatment while in prison, a Ukrainian judge has postponed the trial of the opposition leader, who is currently on hunger strike.
After ruling she could not be tried in absentia, a Ukrainian judge has postponed the trial of jailed opposition leader and former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko to May 21.
"The court has ruled that it is impossible to hear the case in the absence of Tymoshenko," Judge Kostiantyn Sadovsky said after reporting that Tymoshenko could not attend the trial due to chronic back pain.
Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years imprisonment in October for abusing her power as prime minister to broker a gas deal with Russia, which was deemed against national interests by the current government. She currently faces trial for tax evasion. She has complained of back pain and was briefly moved to hospital for treatment last weekend.
Leader of the 2004 Orange Revolution, Tymoshenko went on hunger strike a week ago and reports being abused while in custody.
The 51-year-old's imprisonment has become a key issue in Ukraine's relations with the EU, which sees the case as an example of selective justice. The European Court for Human Rights is examining the appeal against her conviction. It has urged the government to ensure she receives proper treatment for her condition.
German President Joachim Gauck on Thursday turned down an invitation to attend an official meeting in Ukraine next month. Amid speculation that the trip was canceled out of protest for the treatment of Tymoshenko, Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Voloshin said in Kyiv that the invitations had been sent long ago and that "the German president, who had been invited as a guest of honor, immediately announced that he would not be able to attend the summit for a number of reasons."
"This was long before any scandals started about Tymoshenko," he added.
Calls were also growing for EU government officials to boycott the Euro 2012 football championship in June, which Ukraine is co-hosting.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was expected to visit the eastern city of Dnipropetrovsk on Saturday, which was rocked by a series of explosions that injured 26 people on Friday.
sb/mz (AFP, AP)