A high court in Ukraine will rule on Wednesday on former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko's appeal against her abuse-of-office conviction and seven-year prison sentence - a case that has soured Kyiv's ties with the West.
The European Union shelved landmark deals on political association and free trade with Ukraine after a local court sent Tymoshenko to prison last October over a gas deal brokered with Russia in 2009 as prime minister.
The government of President Viktor Yanukovych, Tymoshenko’s long-time political foe, says the agreement went against national interests and saddled Ukraine with an exorbitant price for vital energy supplies.
Tymoshenko, one of the leaders of the 2004 Orange
Revolution protests that derailed Yanukovych’s first bid for presidency,
says she is the victim of a vendetta by Yanukovych, who narrowly beat
her for the presidency in February 2010.
Her prosecution will be a major issue in the parliamentary election on Oct. 28 when Yanukovych’s Party of the Regions will seek to keep its control of parliament.
Tymoshenko’s lawyers argued in court this month that negotiating the gas agreement with Russia had been a political act which did not amount to criminal action.
Tymoshenko, 51, has not attended the appeal trial
herself, receiving treatment for back trouble in a state-run hospital
“The full text of the ruling…will be announced on Aug. 29, 2012, at 10 a.m.,” the court said on its website on Monday.
Her supporters are not expecting the high court to acquit Tymoshenko and are pinning their hopes on the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) which can start looking into the case after she has exhausted her appeals at home.
However, Tymoshenko could stay in prison even after winning an appeal in Strasbourg as local prosecutors have brought more charges against her.
In a separate trial, where hearings are set to resume
on Sept. 11, Tymoshenko is accused of embezzlement and tax evasion
going back to alleged offences when she was in business in the 1990s.