Monday, 13 August 2012
Murder Charge For Ex-PM
KIEV, Ukraine -- Prosecutors in Ukraine yesterday said they were ready to charge the jailed opposition leader Yuliya Tymoshenko with involvement in murder. In a move likely to increase tensions with the West, deputy chief prosecutor Renat Kuzmin said proceedings would begin as soon as Ms Tymoshenko's treatment for a spinal condition was over. The former prime minister was jailed for seven years in October for abuse of office over a gas contract she signed with Russia in 2009. The US and the EU condemned the trial as politically motivated and Ms Tymoshenko accused her bitter rival President Viktor Yanukovych of a "political lynching" to prevent her challenging him for power. Mr Kuzmin said Ms Tymoshenko would be charged next month with involvement in the 1996 murder of Yevhen Shcherban, a member of parliament and businessman. He told Ukraine's Segodnya newspaper: "We have enough grounds to indict her. As the German doctors who treat Tymoshenko said, she needed eight weeks' relief from stress. We are waiting until this term is finished. When the doctors say it's OK to disturb her, we'll come to her with the new charges. We've got everything ready for it." Ms Tymoshenko, the leader of Ukraine's pro-Western Orange revolution after the 2004 election, has rejected the allegations as "absurd". She was moved to hospital from prison in the city of Kharkiv in May and is being treated by foreign specialists after expressing fears that state-appointed doctors would deliberately infect her with a disease. Mr Yanukovych is under intense diplomatic pressure to free her before parliamentary elections in October. EU political leaders boycotted matches in Ukraine during the Euro 2012 football championship in protest at her imprisonment. The European Court of Human Rights is due to open its hearing into the case on August 28. Mr Yanukovych has rejected criticism of the trial, however, and suggested in an interview in June that Ms Tymoshenko had been involved in the killing of Shcherban, who was shot dead with his wife as they were leaving a plane at Donetsk airport in eastern Ukraine. The gunman was jailed for life in 2003 but investigators allege that Ms Tymoshenko was linked to the killing after $US 2 million was found in his bank account. They claim the money came from companies controlled by Ms Tymoshenko and a close associate, Pavlo Lazarenko, another former prime minister, who is in prison in the US for money laundering. Mr Kuzmin said prosecutors had asked the US authorities for permission to question Lazarenko about the killing. The prosecutor claimed opinion in Europe was beginning to turn against Ms Tymoshenko because of the weight of charges against her. But Ms Tymoshenko's lawyer, Serhiy Vlasenko, said: "I talk to the Europeans all the time, and I know that they firstly think that Ukraine has a fully formed dictatorship, and secondly, that its leaders have neither morals nor conscience." The latest case has been given added impetus by claims from Shcherban's son, Ruslan, that he has evidence to prove that Ms Tymoshenko was involved in the death of his father. He alleged he was present at meetings between Shcherban and Ms Tymoshenko and Lazarenko, and claimed they threatened his father for refusing to "sacrifice his business interests". Ms Tymoshenko is already facing a fresh trial on embezzlement and tax evasion charges. Mr Yanukovych moved to hasten proceedings against her by saying legislation permitted the court to use a video link to hear evidence.