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Yulia Tymoshenko listens as the judge reads the verdict on her case in a district court in Kyiv earlier this month.
BRUSSELS -- The European Parliament has deplored the jailing of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko on abuse-of-office charges "as a violation of human rights and an abuse of the judiciary."

The resolution passed overwhelmingly by the chamber urges authorities in Kyiv to ensure a fair and transparent appeal process.

The text, which was supported by all five major political groups, also says Tymoshenko should be allowed to participate fully in the political process both now and in future Ukrainian elections.

Tymoshenko was jailed for seven years earlier this month on abuse-of-office charges stemming from a 2009 natural gas deal she signed with Russia while in office. The European Union roundly condemned the sentence when it was pronounced and a recent visit to Brussels by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was called off last week.

The resolution states that this visit "would have offered an excellent opportunity to tackle serious concerns which have been addressed to the Ukraine government" and urges the EU Commission and Council to reschedule the meeting before the planned EU-Ukraine summit in December.

The European Parliament indicated that a trade agreement between Brussels and Kyiv, which is expected will be signed during the December summit, might be put on ice if the sentence is not changed.

"A failure to review Yulia Tymoshenko's conviction will jeopardize the conclusion of the association agreement and its ratification, while pushing the country further away from the realization of its European perspective," it says.

"Ukraine is a European state with a European perspective," Member of the European Parliament Elmer Brok added. "We must have an association agreement with Ukraine, but Ukraine must go in the right direction and cannot systematically persecute the opposition and tread on the rule of law. The fate of the Ukrainian citizens is now in the hands of President Yanukovych."

The EU lawmakers also expressed concern about the deterioration of media freedom and pluralism in Ukraine and the continued detention of former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko, who is on trial on similar charges as Tymoshenko.
Tunisians hold up a portrait of Mohammed Bouazizi, whose death after he set himself on fire triggered the chain of popular uprisings in North Africa that became known as the Arab Spring
Five Arab Spring activists have won the European Parliament's 2011 Sakharov Prize.

European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek said the five laureates symbolized the struggle for change in their countries.

"This year's winners symbolize the struggle for dignity, for democracy, and for human rights, and [they] are co-authors of historical change in the Arab world," Buzek said.

They are Mohammed Bouazizi from Tunisia, whose death after he set himself on fire triggered the chain of popular uprisings in North Africa that became known as the Arab Spring; Asmaa Mahfouz from Egypt, Ahmed al-Zubair Ahmed al-Sanusi from Libya, and Razan Zeitouneh and Ali Farzat, both from Syria.

Dzmitry Bandarenka from Belarus and a Colombian peasant farmers' community were the other two finalists.

Dzmitry Bandarenka is a Belarusian civil activist and member of the Belarusian Association of Journalists. He is one of the co-founders of the Charter '97 civil rights initiative.

The San Jose de Apartado Peace Community is recognized for its dedication to the values of peace and justice in a country plagued by decades of civil war and conflict.

The Sakharov Prize is named in honor of Soviet physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov.

It has been awarded by the European Parliament since 1988 to individuals or organizations that have made a significant contribution to the struggle for human rights and democracy.

It carries an award of a total of 50,000 euros ($70,000).

Past winners of the prize include antiapartheid icon Nelson Mandela and former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

with agency reports

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