KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine has postponed the latest trial of jailed ex-premier Yulia Tymoshenko until after the Euro 2012 final.
The decision to move the trial to July came yesterday as pressure mounted on the tournament co-hosts to drop the controversial case.
The presiding judge set the next hearing for July 10 - more than a week after some of the attention fades off Ukraine with the completion this weekend of European soccer's premier international event.
Several thousand of Ms Tymoshenko's supporters and foes held rival rallies outside the courtroom in the eastern city of Kharkiv, where the fiery opposition leader is serving a seven-year sentence on abuse-of-power charges.
"Freedom for Yulia," Ms Tymoshenko's supporters chanted while those on the other side of a line of riot police held up signs saying "The country suffered and she just kept talking" in reference to her 2007-2010 term as premier.
Ms Tymoshenko herself was absent from the hearing - this one focused on her tax dealings dating back to the 1990s - after being granted permission to continue recuperating in a Kharkiv hospital from her persistent back problems.
The court yesterday agreed with a prosecution request to order Ms Tymoshenko to undergo a health examination by authorised doctors who could determine her fitness to stand trial.
"We have to get this issued resolved," prosecutor Marina Kapinos told reporters.
That ruling threatens to create another confrontation following an earlier claim by Ms Tymoshenko - distrustful of local doctors and now treated by a German medical team - of being beaten by guards who tried taking her to a state-mandated clinic.
But rules also allow a judgment on Ms Tymoshenko's health to be issued based on a review of her medical records rather than an actual examination.
Ms Tymoshenko's lawyer called the medical examination ruling a "crude violation" of the defence team's rights.
EU states have been watching the case closely for months and were formally represented in court by former Polish president Alexander Kwasniewski and Ireland's one-time European Parliament leader Pat Cox.
They had both visited Ms Tymoshenko in hospital on Sunday, the latest in a host of European dignitaries to go through the gates of a small clinic run by the Ukrainian railways.
The case of the 51-year-old 2004 Orange Revolution leader has set Ukraine on a collision course with the European Union that has delayed the signature of an agreement that could pave the way for Kiev's future membership in the bloc.
EU leaders support Ms Tymoshenko's claims that her prosecution is a part of the current authorities' vendetta and some have boycotted soccer matches that Ukraine is hosting in four cities - including Kharkiv - alongside co-hosts Poland.
The two Euro 2012 semi-finals will be played Thursday and Friday AEST while the final will be held in Kiev on Monday AEST.
The latest Tymoshenko hearings began in April and have already been adjourned twice on account of her health.
A two-metre glass wall was set up inside the courtroom that enclosed a special space for Ms Tymoshenko with a chair and table and even some potted plants in case of her future attendance.
Officials had initially ordered her presence before agreeing on Sunday to excuse her in the face of likely protests from both her Ukrainian supporters and the West.
But Ms Tymoshenko will also be in the news later today when a judge hears her appeal against last year's abuse-of-power conviction.