Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Tymoshenko Trial Disintegrating

KIEV, Ukraine -- The trial of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko has become a national embarrassment for Ukraine.
Last week the former premier narrowly escaped arrest and detention after Judge Rodion Kireyev dismissed a prosecution petition to change the restrictions on the former premier from a travel ban to arrest.

Since last Tuesday, Ms Tymoshenko has been denied the right to legal representation with TV cameras and photography banned from the courtroom.

Heightening the sense of farce is witnesses testimony claiming that no crime was committed.

Ms Tymoshenko has been denied the legal right to a defence since last Tuesday when she fired her third set of defence lawyers, Mykola Siryi and Oleksandr Plakhotnyuk, on the grounds of their inability to provide a full defence.

The exhausted lawyers stood down complaining that they had been given insufficient time to familiarise themselves with the case materials.

“The court is acting without any rules or moral boundaries,” said Ms Tymoshenko.

The judge steadfastly refused to consider a petition from Ms Tymoshenko requesting three days leave to find and appoint a new lawyer, contrary to Ukrainian law.

He also refused to satisfy a petition to have Ms Tymoshenko’s first lawyer, Serhiy Vlasenko, readmitted to represent her in court.

Last week also saw Gryphon court police assault parliamentary lawmakers (MPs) and journalists when clearing the courtroom.

Tempers flared when lawmakers cried “Shame” at the judge’s refusal to adhere to Ukrainian law and allow Ms Tymoshenko three days to appoint a new lawyer.
As the trial progresses it does so without live TV coverage and photography – a feeble attempt by the authorities to keep embarrassing coverage from the Ukrainian people.
Much to the annoyance of the authorities, some of the witnesses being questioned state emphatically that no crime was committed.

Tetiana Korniakova, a deputy fuel and energy minister and a former deputy prosecutor general, backed up Ms Tymoshenko’s account.

Another witness, Ivan Ratushnyak, the former deputy minister of the Cabinet of Ministers, said, "I do not see the event of a crime in the prime minister's actions. These are not emotions. I've worked with all governments since independence... and I haven't seen such a patriot of Ukraine, such a fighter for justice. I don't know if anyone else can do this the way she did.”

“When witnesses start giving absolutely different testimonies than those given to prosecutors during the investigation, it means only one thing: the case has collapsed,” said Arseniy Yatsenyuk, leader of Front for Change.

Ms Tymoshenko is charged with exceeding her authority when she was prime minister and causing damage to the state of UAH 1.5 billion ($190 million), by signing a gas agreement with Russia in 2009.

The prosecution alleges that she broke the law by authorising the signature of the gas agreement on behalf of the Cabinet of Ministers without their approval.

Ms Tymoshenko denies any wrongdoing saying that the order was issued on behalf of herself as prime minister.

The 2009 agreement ended a damaging standoff with Russia which saw gas supplies disrupted to EU states.

At the time, Ms Tymoshenko was praised for resolving the dispute and removing from the gas trade the controversial intermediary company RosUkrEnergo, while transitioning Ukraine to European market prices for gas with a 20% discount.
Steven Pifer, a former US ambassador to Ukraine and today a senior fellow at the Washington DC-based Brookings Institution, wrote in the Kyiv Post, “The virtually unanimous view in the West is that the trial represents nothing more than a politically-motivated attempt to sideline the opposition leader.”

Many in the West have expressed alarm at the willingness of the authorities to criminalise what was a political decision.

The goal of the authorities is to crush President Viktor Yanukovych’s main political rival and prevent Ms Tymoshenko from running in the 2012 parliamentary and 2015 presidential elections.

“Ukrainians and foreigners alike have largely concluded that the trial against Tymoshenko is a farce, an exercise in political persecution to sideline President Viktor Yanukovych’s top rival,” said a Kyiv Post editorial.

The trial resumed today at 10.00 am.

No comments: