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Tymoshenko Tax Evasion Trial Postponed Again

  • RFE/RL

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in court last year

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in court last year

A court in Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine has again postponed the tax-evasion trial of jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Tymoshenko, who is already serving a seven-year sentence over a separate abuse-of-power case, had asked the authorities to let her skip the trial because of health concerns.

She was not present in the courtroom on July 31.

Prosecutors proposed to the judge that Tymoshenko be allowed to participate in the trial via video link. Tymoshenko's lawyers swiftly rejected the idea.

Judge Konstyantyn Sadovskyy said more time was needed to decide on the video question, and scheduled another hearing for August 14.

The trial has already been postponed several times. The proceedings concern allegations that Tymoshenko evaded millions of dollars in taxes in connection with a private energy company she headed during the 1990s, when she was a prominent businesswoman.

Talking to journalists after the trial was postponed, Tymoshenko's lawyer, Serhiy Vlasenko, called the prosecutor's proposal to use a video link for his client "absurd."

"They've come up with an ingenious new construction of holding a court session on television. This is absurd from a legal point of view," Vlasenko said.

"You've all heard that in Ukrainian law there is not a provision that would allow a trial to be held in this way. On the contrary, there are provisions that say that the personal appearance of the person accused of committing a crime is mandatory."

According to Vlasenko, holding a trial via video link would not assure Tymoshenko's full participation in the process.

"I would just suggest that everyone imagine a situation where Yulia Volodymyrovna [Tymoshenko], for example, would be in the hospital, while her defense would be here," Vlasenko said.

"She will be watching this reality show on television. How will she be able to fully take part in this? How will we be able to provide a legal defense if she's on the other side of the silver screen?"

Gas Charges

Reports say more than 1,000 supporters and opponents of Tymoshenko gathered outside the courtroom in Kharkiv as the case resumed on July 31.

On July 30, German doctors who have been treating Tymoshenko said her physical condition required up to eight more weeks of attention. The former prime minister has been suffering from back problems and other ailments.

Prosecutors say Tymoshenko's now-defunct gas-trading company caused losses to the state that were equivalent to about $4 million, while she personally evaded paying $85,000 in taxes.

Tymoshenko, President Viktor Yanukovych's main political opponent, was sent to jail for seven years in October for abuse of office in relation to gas deals she signed with Russia while in office.

She denies any wrongdoing, saying she is the victim of a vendetta by Yanukovych, who defeated her in a fight for the presidency in February 2010.

Tymoshenko, 51, was a leader of the 2004 Orange Revolution protests that derailed Yanukovych's first bid for the presidency.

After losing the presidential election to Yanukovych in a close runoff, Tymoshenko and a number of her opposition allies have faced corruption-related charges.

Even though her imprisonment bars her from running for election, Ukraine's united opposition has included Tymoshenko in its candidate list for parliamentary elections due in October.

Tymoshenko's prosecution and jailing has soured Ukraine's relations with the European Union and the United States, who have accused Ukrainian authorities of using the justice system to target political opponents.

With reporting by Interfax, ITAR-TASS, and Reuters

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