[JURIST] Preliminary hearings for former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko [personal website; JURIST news archive] began on Thursday in the appeal of Tymoshenko's seven-year prison sentence [JURIST report]. Tymoshenko was convicted of corruption and abuse of authority while negotiating a gas contract with Russia [AP report] in 2009, and has been barred from serving public office for three years. Health issues kept Tymoshenko from appearing in court for the beginning of her appeal as she remains bedridden [UPI report]. Tymoshenko's political rival, President Viktor Yanukovych [BBC backgrounder] maintains that the charges and convictions are not political and that were he to intercede in the process to absolve Tymoshenko, it would become politicized. The European Parliament criticized the handling of Tymoshenko's case [JURIST report] in October, calling it a violation of human rights.
Tymoshenko's prosecution has been highly controversial [JURIST comment] and has drawn harsh criticism internationally. In November the Ukrainian Parliament voted against [agenda text] hearing amendments that would have effectively freed [JURIST report] Tymoshenko by fining her rather than imposing a criminal sentence for the financial crimes of which she was convicted. The EU condemned [JURIST report] her conviction as politically motivated and has indicated that it could harm Ukraine's bid for EU accession. In June, Tymoshenko filed a complaint [JURIST report] with the European Court of Human Rights alleging violations of the European Convention of Human Rights [text, PDF]. The complaint argued that the charges against Tymoshenko are politically engineered by current Yanukovych. Tymoshenko's government was dissolved in March 2010 after she narrowly lost the presidential election to Yanukovych. Tymoshenko had alleged that widespread voter fraud allowed Yanukovych to win the election. In August, the Kiev Appeals Court refused Tymoshenko's appeal of her detention for contempt charges [JURIST reports]. Tymoshenko's government was dissolved in March 2010 after she narrowly lost the presidential election to Yanukovych. Tymoshenko had alleged that widespread voter fraud allowed Yanukovych to win the election.