A Ukrainian appeals court has abruptly postponed its review of the abuse-of-office conviction against former premier Yulia Tymoshenko. Her legal team says it will now take her case to the European Court of Human Rights.
At a brief hearing on Tuesday, Ukraine's High Specialized Court in Kyiv granted a prosecutors' motion to delay the appeal against the conviction of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko on abuse-of-office charges until June 26.
That would place the hearing near the end of the Euro 2012 soccer tournament for which some European leaders are considering a boycott in protest at the seven-year jail term imposed on Tymoshenko's last October and allegations that she was ill treated in jail.
At Tuesday's session, Tymoshenko's lead lawyer, Serhy Vlasenko, was quoted by Ukrainian media as stating: "If you think that with today's court decision you have closed our path to European courts, you are wrong."
Vlasenko prefaced his remark made in the courtroom by saying it was directed at Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovitch, who is Tymoshenko's political archrival.
Judge Stanislav Mishchenko said the delay was needed for the court to study new material. That prompted shouts of "shame" from the defense.
Outside the courthouse, police outnumbered about 20 Tymoshenko supporters.
Unwelcome in Brussels
The decision by Ukrainian authorities to delay Tymoshenko's appeal coincided with an intended visit to Brussels by Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov on Tuesday.
Last Saturday, EU President Herman Van Rompuy had told the broadcaster Euronews that Azarov should "stay home!"
The 51-year-old Tymoshenko was recently shifted from jail to hospital in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv to receive treatment for a painful back ailment. She had previously been on hunger strike for more than two weeks.
Kharkiv is one of four Ukrainian cities due to host the Euro 2012 football tournament together with Poland.
Tymoshenko was convicted in October and given a seven-year jail term for abuse of power while prime minister in 2009 when Ukraine signed a gas deal with Russia. She denies any wrongdoing.
On Monday, EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels delayed ratifying a cooperation agreement with Ukraine but were unable to agree on whether they themselves should snub Yanukovitch's government during Euro 2012.
Already, it has been decided that EU commissioners will boycott matches hosted by Ukraine.
ipj/pfd (dpa, AFP, Reuters)