Sunday, 3 March 2013

Key Tymoshenko Defender Purged From Parliament

KIEV, Ukraine -- A key defender of jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was stripped of his lawmaker status by a court ruling and may now be facing arrest, an opposition leader said Thursday. Serhiy Vlasenko, who plays the key role in the legal defense of Tymoshenko, was “illegally stripped of lawmaker mandate by the authorities that now plan his arrest,” Oleksandr Turchynov, a leader of the Batkivshchyna, said in a statement. No other details have been released in the statement. Turchynov is due to hold a press conference Friday to speak about the case. “The situation with Vlasenko is not a joke,” Volodymyr Ariyev, a Batkivshchyna lawmaker, wrote on his Facebook page on Thursday. “The gang has gone the way of total lawlessness.” This comes four days after European leaders, at an EU-Ukraine summit in Brussels, gave President Viktor Yanukovych three months to stop political prosecutions among other things as a condition for signing political association and free trade agreement in November. A lawmaker can be stripped of the status only if he officially asks Parliament to do so, is convicted of a crime, is legally missing or incapable, has acquired another citizenship and left for permanent residency in another country, or in the event of death. In any case, a majority vote in the 450-seat Parliament is required to confirm the ousting, according to the constitution. Another law allows a court to strip lawmaker of the status if he or she illegally combines his or her lawmaker activity with another job. The development comes three weeks after two independent lawmakers have been ousted by a court ruling that critics said were orchestrated by Yanukovych to reassert control over majority in Parliament. Pavlo Baloha, who won a parliamentary seat in the TransCarpathian region, and Oleksandr Dombrovskiy, who won the seat in the Vinnytsia region, had been ousted by a ruling of the High Administrative Court. The ruling was controversial as legislation allows contesting elections in courts only within five days after the elections. Baloha and Dmobrovskiy won their seats at elections on October 28, 2012. If Vlasenko is stripped of his lawmaker status, he will automatically lose immunity from prosecution and may be eventually arrested, a move that may considerably complicate Tymoshenko’s defense. Vlasenko has an ongoing dispute over property with his ex-wife that may be used as a reason for his arrest, analysts said. Tymoshenko is now accused by prosecutors of involvement in the murder of a prominent politician and a business leader in 1996, a charge she had denied as politically motivated. Tymoshenko may get life in prison if convicted. Vlasenko recently asked the Lawyer Council of Ukraine to officially revoke his lawyer certificate amid concerns that the certificate may give the authorities reason to claim he was illegally combining a lawyer job and lawmaker activity. Volodymyr Mysyk, a lawmaker from the ruling Regions Party, recently asked the speaker of Parliament to file a lawsuit to the High Administrative Court in order to oust Vlasenko for “combining lawmaker activity with lawyer job.”

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