Yulia Tymoshenko: Tax trial of former Ukrainian prime minister opens
UKRAINE’S jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko has gone on trial charged with evading millions in taxes 15 years ago, despite strong Western protests against the prosecution.
Ms Tymoshenko, 51, is already serving a seven-year sentence on charges of abuse of office and is the subject of a slew of other criminal investigations, including a murder case.
The West has sharply condemned her prosecution as an attempt to sideline a political opponent. Top Western leaders are boycotting the Euro 2012 championships in Ukraine in protest.
Ms Tymoshenko has accused President Viktor Yanukovych, her long-time rival, of jailing her to keep her out of politics.
She did not appear in court in the eastern city of Kharkiv because she is in hospital with a spinal condition which is causing her constant and debilitating pain.
Ms Tymoshenko is charged with evading taxes when she headed an energy company, Ukraine's United Energy Systems, in 1997-1999.
"Tymoshenko's absence today at this event is logical: She should not be here, because she is innocent," Andriy Kozhemyakin, an MP from her party, said as hundreds of her supporters and opponents rallied outside the court.
Ms Tymoshenko was convicted in October of overstepping her authority while overseeing a natural gas import contract with Russia, which the court deemed harmful for the Ukrainian economy.
Her health has significantly deteriorated since and she was diagnosed with a herniated spinal disk. Ukrainian authorities insisted for months that her condition was satisfactory. Last month, they finally bowed to Western pressure and allowed her to be treated at a local hospital under the supervision of a team of German doctors.
After a brief session the court adjourned the trial until July 10 and ordered a medical examination of Ms Tymoshenko to determine whether she is fit to stand trial.