A Kyiv court has sentenced a key ally of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko to four years in prison for abuse of power and embezzlement. The European Union has criticized the trial and the verdict.
Former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko was convicted on Monday of giving illegal bonuses and perks to his driver.
From a cage in the courtroom, Lutsenko said the trial was politically motivated.
"We have seen that there is no fair judiciary in Ukraine," he said. "This ruling is aimed at destroying me as a politician."
His lawyer said he would appeal the conviction.
Veiled threat from EU
The EU's high representative for foreign affairs, Catherine Ashton, criticized the ruling.
"We are disappointed with the verdict against Mr. Lutsenko, which signals the continuation of trials in Ukraine which do not respect international standards as regards fair, transparent and independent legal process," Ashton said in a statement.
"Respect for the rule of law will be of crucial importance for the speed of Ukraine's political association and economic integration with the EU," she added.
The European Union and the United States had previously condemned the trial.
Officials under investigation
Lutsenko also received backing from world heavyweight boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko, who heads the Ukrainian opposition political party UDAR (Punch). He appeared at the courthouse on Monday.
"This verdict shows the country is slipping towards authoritarianism," his press service quoted him as saying. "The cases against Yulia Tymoshenko and Yuriy Lutsenko are politically motivated. With this logic, you could jail any official in Ukraine."
Tymoshenko is serving a seven-year-sentence for abuse of power while in office.
The country's judiciary is also investigating numerous former members of Tymoshenko's government for alleged abuse of power.
President Viktor Yanukovych has said the trials are part of his adminstration's fight against corruption.
ncy/pfd (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)