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Kiev Court of Appeal to consider Timoshenko gas case appeal

December 20, 2011, 9:08 UTC+3

In October Timoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison for abuse of authority in signing natural gas contracts with Russia

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KIEV, December 20 (Itar-Tass) — The Kiev Court of Appeals on Tuesday will continue consideration of the merits of the appeal filed by Ukraine’s former Prime Minister, leader of the Batkivshchina (Fatherland) party Yulia Timoshenko, who in October was sentenced to seven years in prison for abuse of authority in signing natural gas contracts with Russia.

The beginning of the consideration on the merits, as well as preliminary hearings, were held without Timoshenko due to deterioration of her health. Despite the defence motion not to open the meeting, the presiding judge in the case, Yelena Sitailo, decided to hold it without the defendant. However, on December 14, the court adjourned the hearing until December 20 to “provide a third possibility for Timoshenko to take part in the appellate procedure.” In addition, the court ruled to request from the Kiev detention centre a certificate with the ex-prime minister’s medical diagnosis, as well as conclusions about the possibility of her participation in the meetings.

This made head of the Yulia Timoshenko defenders’ team, member of parliament Sergei Vlasenko conclude that the Court of Appeal of Kiev will uphold the seven-year sentence to the ex-prime minister. “In fact, the further hearing of the case becomes senseless. I am convinced that the court will rule to uphold the verdict of the Pechersky Court, and Timoshenko will be finally sentenced to seven years in prison,” Vlasenko said.

It is hard to say whether Timoshenko will appear in the courtroom on Tuesday. Due to the fact that doctors do not see any “contraindications to (Timoshenko’s) participation in the investigation actions and court meetings,” it is not ruled out that the ex-prime minister will be brought to the court compulsorily.

Timoshenko has now been moved to a ward of the medical unit of the Kiev prison for undergoing the prescribed course of treatment. “Living conditions in the cell, including air temperature, meet European standards and requirements of national legislation and international standards,” the State Penitentiary Service said.

EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Stefan Fule has visited Timoshenko in prison. “I told her about the EU concern over these proceedings and assured her that we will continue to closely monitor the appeal procedure and to demand observance of her rights,” Fule said, in particular.

Meanwhile, the European Court of Human Rights accepted for consideration Timoshenko’s complaint about violation of the norms of the European Convention on Human Rights in bringing her to criminal responsibility.

On December 15, Timoshenko’s lawyers spent two hours declaring their arguments to the judges. If taken on balance, their argumentation boiled down to the importance of reinvestigating the former prime minister’s case in court. For instance, lawyer Alexander Plakhotnyuk pointed out a range of procedural violations made by Justice Rodion Kireyev during the initial consideration of the case in Kiev’s Pechersky District Court. These violations made the whole trial biased and illegal in the final run, Plakhotnyuk said. He also indicated that the court of the first instance turned down the lawyers’ request to summon the key eyewitnesses for questioning and the fact testifies to the “one-sided and incomplete character” of the trial.

In part, the lawyers asked for summoning a number of former members of the cabinet. In the light of it, Timoshenko’s defence made a request to question these eyewitnesses and to hold confrontations, for instance, between their client and the incumbent Prime Minister, Nikolai Azarov, former President Viktor Yushchenko, and former CEO of the national oil and gas monopoly Naftogaz Ukrainy, Oleg Dubina.

“The court ignored the requests earlier, and if someone makes claims to justice and equality, then please entertain the petitions, hold expert studies, summon and question eyewitnesses,” Plakhotnyuk asked the judges.

The scope arguments provided the defence include a statement by Igor Kost, the former chief of Naftogaz’s department for complaints, which the lawyers believe will make it possible to reinvestigate the newly unearthed circumstances. Sergei Vlasenko, another lawyer defending Timoshenko said that in the period where Kost occupied the position at Naftogaz, the corporation received instructions from the Prosecutor General’s Office to initiate lawsuits against Timoshenko over the losses Naftogaz had allegedly sustained due to the Prime Minister’s directives for signing the gas agreements.

On December 14, Kost confirmed in a conversation with reporters Naftogaz did not have losses arising from whatever actions effectuated by Timoshenko. “The losses that were imputed by the Prosecutor General’s Office and that the court agreed with have been concocted, in fact,” Kost said. “They were computed with the aid of God only knows what methods.”

Timoshenko’s lawyers filed petitions Dec 14 to request the necessary financial documents and the materials highlighting their economic activity in the appropriate period of time. In addition, they asked for an expert study of natural gas contracts and other materials appended with the case. The court turned down all the requests, however.



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