Ukrainian ex-PM asks court to adjourn tax trial

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 27, 2012 12:24 PM
Ukrainian ex-PM asks court to adjourn tax trial

KIEV (Reuters) - Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, sentenced to seven years in prison last year in a case condemned by the West, has asked a local court to adjourn a fresh trial against her on health grounds, Tymoshenko's political party said on Friday.

The conviction in October of Tymoshenko, President Viktor Yanukovich's key political opponent, drew criticism from the European Union which saw the abuse-of-office charge as politically motivated and urged her release.

But Ukrainian prosecutors have instead heaped more charges on her, accusing Tymoshenko of tax evasion and attempted embezzlement during her stint as the head of a major gas trading company in the 1990s.

Tymoshenko, who denies all charges, did not attend the opening of the trial this month. According to her party Batkivshchyna, she has asked the court to put off further hearings - due to resume on Saturday - because of ill health.

"Yulia Tymoshenko has filed a motion with the court asking to delay the hearings into the case until she recovers," Batkivshchyna said in a statement.

Tymoshenko, 51, has been suffering from back pain for months, her lawyers and family say, and has trouble walking.

Earlier this week, Tymoshenko accused prison guards of beating her during a forced visit to a local hospital where she refused treatment. Prison authorities deny that, while Yanukovich has ordered state prosecutors to investigate the allegations.

Tymoshenko, who went on a hunger strike after the alleged beating, says she does not trust state-appointed doctors.

The German government has offered to arrange treatment in a Berlin clinic, a suggestion reiterated by Chancellor Angela Merkel in an interview with NDR Info public radio on Friday.

"The German side has several times already sent doctors (to Ukraine) and they have been able to examine her. The doctors are of the view that her treatment would best be carried out in a German hospital," Merkel said.

"That is what the foreign ministry is working on and what the chancellery is working on too."

But Tymoshenko's husband, who has been granted asylum in the Czech Republic after fleeing Ukraine this year, told Reuters she would not leave Ukraine.

"I know Yulia will not agree to leave Ukraine, although I personally would like that to happen," Oleksander Tymoshenko told Reuters television in an interview. "She is a fighter and she will stand to the end."

Tymoshenko was one of the leaders of the 2004 Orange Revolution protests that derailed Yanukovich's first bid for presidency and has since served twice as prime minister.

But Yanukovich made a comeback in 2010, beating Tymoshenko in a close race for presidency, after which she and a number of her allies faced corruption-related charges in what Tymoshenko described as a campaign of repressions against opposition.

(Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Additional reporting by Jan Lopatka in Prague and Gareth Jones in Berlin; Editing by Toby Chopra)