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Pro-Tymoshenko Rally Marks Two Years Since Her Arrest

  • RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service

KYIV -- Hundreds of opposition activists and protesters have gathered in front of a Kyiv courthouse to mark two years since jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was arrested.

Activists from Tymoshenko's Fatherland (Batkivshchyna) party on August 5 held placards, one of which read, "Two Years of Democracy's Imprisonment."

"Freedom to Yulia! Freedom to Yulia! Freedom to Yulia!" many of them chanted.

Opposition activist Yuriy Bakal said the demonstrators gathered in Kyiv to protest Tymoshenko's "politically motivated" imprisonment.

"Some concerned people have gathered here -- people who, like most people in the country, believe that [Tymoshenko] was convicted unjustly," Bakal said. "Why is she still in prison? Because we don't live in a democratic country. All democratic countries have already recognized that her prosecution was politically motivated."

Hoping For More

Tymoshenko's daughter, Yevhenia, told RFE/RL on August 2 that her mother needs immediate surgery and "such treatment can only be conducted by independent doctors outside Ukraine."

In June, a group of German physicians examined Tymoshenko at a clinic in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, where she has been undergoing treatment for back pain since May 2012.

Ukrainian lawmaker Mykola Tomenko of the Fatherland faction was among the demonstrators. He said the opposition wants Tymoshenko to run for president.

"The opposition's immediate goal is to give Tymoshenko an opportunity to receive medical care abroad, particularly in Germany," Tomenko said. "But our ultimate goal remains the same as before: It's not just Tymoshenko's release from prison, but it is her participation in the next presidential election."

Tymoshenko's prosecution began after her defeat to Yanukovych in a presidential runoff in February 2010.

Outside Support

The demonstrators on August 5 started collecting signatures under a petition to urge the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to expedite hearings into Tymoshenko's case.

The same court concluded in April that Tymoshenko's detention before and during her trial on abuse-of-office charges was arbitrary and a violation of her rights.

Tymoshenko was arrested on August 5, 2011 and sentenced to seven years in prison in October that year for crimes related to a 2009 gas deal with Russia. She is also due to be tried on tax-evasion and embezzlement charges and is being investigated in a murder case.

Tymoshenko denies all charges, saying that they are politically motivated.

The European Union has repeatedly criticized Ukraine's leadership for meting out "selective justice" and has warned that Kyiv will see no progress on signing a much-desired EU Association Agreement without judicial and electoral reforms.

Ukrainian authorities have signaled their intention to charge Tymoshenko with other crimes, including conspiracy to murder.

Additional reporting by UNIAN, Interfax, and Reuters
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