Ukraine's highest court on Wednesday upheld the abuse of office conviction against former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko [personal website, in Ukrainian; JURIST news archive]. The country's Supreme Court [official website, in Ukrainian] reasoned [WP report] that there would be no basis to rule in favor of Tymoshenko and that the prison sentence is appropriate considering the charges against her. The verdict faced heavy criticism from Tymoshenko's supporters who characterized Wednesday's ruling as politically motivated. The government denied the allegations that the criminal proceedings against Tymoshenko were a measure initiated by President Viktor Yanukovych [official website, in Ukrainian; JURIST news archive] in order to prevent the former prime minister from participating in the October elections. Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison in October 2011 over allegations involving a gas contract negotiated while she was prime minister of Ukraine.
The decision came only a day after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] held a hearing [JURIST report] on Tymoshenko's appeal. Last week Ukrainian prosecutors urged the Supreme Court not to hear her appeal [JURIST report]. Prosecutors told the court that Tymoshenko's trial had already established her guilt in the case, and asked the judges to let stand a seven-year prison sentence [JURIST report] in the case. Tymoshenko was not present at the hearing due to health concerns. The hearing has been delayed [JURIST report] in the past due to Tymoshenko's absence. Although Tymoshenko has previously indicated that she would discontinue all appeals in Ukrainian courts [JURIST report], she is required to exhaust all national options before appealing to the ECHR.