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Ukrainian Parliament To Discuss 'Political Amnesty' For Tymoshenko

An opposition lawmaker stands next to a giant poster featuring Yulia Tymoshenko in the parliament in Kyiv on September 6.
An opposition lawmaker stands next to a giant poster featuring Yulia Tymoshenko in the parliament in Kyiv on September 6.
KYIV -- The Ukrainian parliament is to discuss a bill on "political amnesty" for former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

Opposition parliament deputy Hennadiy Moskal, who drafted the bill, told RFE/RL on September 13 that it envisages "a political amnesty, not a criminal amnesty." He said if parliament deputies support the bill then Tymoshenko and Lutsenko will be released from custody.

Tymoshenko, leader of the opposition Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party, is charged with abuse of office in connection with a contract she signed with Russian officials in her capacity as prime minister in January 2009 on natural gas imports. She was arrested and remanded in pretrial detention on August 5.

Lutsenko, one of the leaders of the Our Ukraine-People's Self Defense (NUNS) parliament faction, went on trial on May 23 for abuse of office and misappropriation of funds. He has been held in pretrial detention since December 2010.

Both Tymoshenko and Lutsenko deny any wrongdoing and say their cases are politically motivated.

Moskal's draft law proposes stopping the criminal trials against Tymoshenko and Lutsenko in order "to affirm political freedoms and democratic values in Ukraine, to improve Ukraine's international image, to remove all obstacles on Ukraine's path to integration with the European Union, [and] to stop accusations that Ukraine's leadership is persecuting its political opponents."

Moskal said his proposed law should be supported "first of all by progovernment deputies in the parliament."

Meanwhile, opposition parliament deputies also want to discuss a second bill on the "decriminalization of article 365 of Ukraine's Criminal Code," on abuse of office, which is what Tymoshenko is charged with violating.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk of NUNS explained to Ukraine's Channel 5 TV on September 13 that the "decriminalization law" would make it possible to release Tymoshenko and Lutsenko from jail before the court hands down a verdict, whereas Moskal's draft law proposes an amnesty after the verdict.

Party of Regions deputy Volodymyr Oliynyk said the draft bill on a political amnesty violates the fundamentals of criminal law. He told RFE/RL on September 14 that exceptions cannot be made for just two people.

Oliynyk said the president is empowered to show clemency, while an amnesty shoud be confined to certain types of crime that are not socially dangerous.

European People's Party President Wilfried Martens, who is visiting Kyiv, had his request to see Tymoshenko in detention refused by a judge.

Former Deputy Foreign Minister Oleksandr Chaly told RFE/RL on September 14 that was "a big mistake."

"Martens is a key figure who can influence whether we [Ukrainians] can rebuild trust with the European political community," he said.

A Tymoshenko lawyer announced on September 14 that the former prime minister's health is worsening. Lutsenko's lawyers also said today that their client's health has gotten "significantly" worse and that they will ask the court on September 19 to release him.

The country's prison service said that Lutsenko will be allowed to receive a medical examination at a non-prison clinic or hospital. Lutsenko's wife said he has been diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver.

Read more in Ukrainian here and here