Ukraine’s jailing of former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko was a politically motivated violation of her rights, the European Court of Human Rights ruled yesterday.
A Ukrainian ambassador stormed out of the courthouse in response to the ruling in a case that has strained the country’s ties with the EU and the US.
An architect of Ukraine’s 2004 pro-democracy Orange Revolution, Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison in October 2011 after being convicted of exceeding her powers as prime minister while negotiating a gas contract with Russia.
Tymoshenko has said her jailing was intended to keep her out of politics and that her rights were violated when she was first jailed in August 2011. The EU court agreed unanimously that her jailing was “for other reasons” than those permissible by law.
“It was not a criminal prosecution. There was another aim of that prosecution and everyone knows that that was a politically motivated prosecution,” said Serhiy Vlasenko, Tymoshenko’s lawyer.
He said the court found “the prosecution of Mrs Tymoshenko in Ukraine had nothing to do with the law, had nothing to do with democratic standards, had nothing to do with a criminal prosecution.”
It is unclear how a decision by the European court would be legally binding in Ukraine.
In Kiev, Nazar Kulchitsky, the Ukranian representative with the European Court of Human Rights, told the Interfax news agency that the government needs time to study the ruling, but suggested it might appeal. Both sides have three months to do so.
Tymoshenko and her allies charged that her jailing was masterminded by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to keep her out of politics, out of last year’s parliamentary elections and out of the 2015 presidential election.
Yanukovych has said that this was a legal matter he cannot interfere with. Over the weekend, a presidential pardon commission said it would not consider a motion to pardon Tymoshenko while other legal cases against her are ongoing — including some that could take years to resolve.