Deliberations begin in Tymoshenko trial in Ukraine

AP News
Posted: Sep 30, 2011 10:50 AM
Deliberations begin in Tymoshenko trial in Ukraine

A judge on Friday began deliberations in the abuse-of-office trial of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, which the West has described as politically motivated.

Judge Rodion Kireyev adjourned the trial until Oct. 11 in order to render a verdict in the case. He exited the courtroom to the shouts of "Shame!" and "Fascist!" from Tymoshenko's supporters.

Prosecutors have asked to sentence Tymoshenko, the country's top opposition leader, to seven years in jail on charges of exceeding her authority in the signing of a natural gas import contract with Russia in 2009.

The United States and the European Union have condemned the trial as politically motivated.

Tymoshenko, 50, says the trial was orchestrated by her longtime foe, President Viktor Yanukovych, to force her out of politics.

"This is pure falsification," Tymoshenko said, clad in a bright white jacket and black skirt, her blond braid wrapped around her head. "This lynching ... is continuing to serve the liquidation of opposition in our country."

She said that the judge did not give her enough time to prepare her final remarks.

Tymoshenko was the driving force behind the 2004 Orange Revolution, which overturned Yanukovych's fraud-tainted election victory then. Yanukovych staged a comeback, narrowly defeating Tymoshenko in a 2010 presidential vote amid public disenchantment with economic hardships and constant bickering among those who had ousted Yanukovych.

Tymoshenko has been detained for nearly two months on charges of contempt of court during the trial.

Prosecutors say Tymoshenko was not authorized to order the signing of a natural gas contract with Russia and say the price agreed for the transaction was too high, causing losses to the state budget. They have asked the court to fine Tymoshenko an equivalent of $190,000 (euro140,000) for those alleged damages.

Tymoshenko says that as a prime minister she did not need any special permission to order the signing of the deal which helped end a bitter pricing dispute between Moscow and Kiev, which had led to energy supply shortages across Europe.

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Yanukovych's Party of Regions, which holds a majority in parliament, said Friday it is ready to consider decriminalizing the charge under which Tymoshenko is being prosecuted if she pays the damages that her actions allegedly caused the state.

Parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn suggested Friday that the relevant bills will be considered next week.

Tymoshenko's lawyer Mykola Siry said that while the defense is hoping for an acquittal, they would also accept the decriminalization of her charge.

The European Union had warned that jailing Tymoshenko may cost Ukraine its integration with the 27-nation bloc, but a senior EU official signaled Friday that the threat was off the table.

Speaking at a summit in Warsaw, EU President Herman Van Rompuy said EU officials have expressed their concerns about the trial, but that the bloc still expects to finalize a key association agreement with Ukraine by the end of the year.


Monika Scislowska contributed to this report from Warsaw.