A Ukraine court sentenced an ally of jailed ex-Prime MinisterYulia Tymoshenko on Friday to two years in prison, the latest conviction in what the opposition says is a campaign of political repression.
Yuri Lutsenko, interior minister under Tymoshenko, President Viktor Yanukovich’s main rival, is already serving four years for a separate charge and Friday’s sentence should not add to that jail time.
But the ruling means he will stay in prison even if the European Court of Human Rightsoverturns his previous conviction. The court has already found his arrest on the initial charges illegal but has yet to rule on the actual verdict.
On Friday the court found Lutsenko acted negligently in authorising an illegal extension of surveillance over another former official’s driver. The previous conviction was for embezzlement and abuse of office.
Lutsenko denied wrongdoing in both cases.
“This verdict means that no one can defend himself in this country … there is no justice in this country,” Lutsenko told the courtroom from a metal cage where he was seated.
His lawyer Oleksiy Bohdanets said Lutsenko would appeal.
Tymoshenko was convicted for abuse of office last October and sentenced to seven years in prison in a case that has damaged Ukraine’s relations with the West.
The European Union and the United States say Tymoshenko’s jailing and the prosecution of Lutsenko were examples of selective justice.
After she lost the 2010 presidential election to Yanukovich in a close run-off, Tymoshenko and a number of her allies faced criminal charges in what she described as a campaign of repression.
Another ex-member of her cabinet, former acting defence minister has been sentenced to five years in prison, although an appeals court this week changed his sentence to a suspended one.
Former economy minister Bohdan Danylyshyn – pursued on similar charges – leftUkraine and has been granted political asylum in the Czech Republic.
Tymoshenko herself is appealing her conviction and at the same time standing trial on fresh charges of tax evasion and embezzlement.