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Ukraine’s parliament passes law allowing ex-president’s conviction in absentia

KIEV, March 16. /TASS/. The Ukrainian parliament passed a law in the second reading on Thursday allowing convicting Ukraine’s former President Viktor Yanukovich and his close associates in absentia.

The document was supported by 252 lawmakers.

"The law has been passed," Verkhovna Rada Speaker Andrei Parubiy said.

Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko earlier urged lawmakers to support the bill making it possible to convict ex-President Yanukovich in absentia. Poroshenko stressed the importance of this move so that "Yanukovich is stripped of the president’s title precisely by a court ruling as the court establishes the guilt while the parliament only gives a political assessment."

Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Yuri Lutsenko stated that "the current wording of the law on conviction in absentia gives loopholes to the counsel for the defense of these people to halt and delay the cases against them."

"This law will close a possibility for the defense of Yanukovich and [Ukrainian ex-Interior Minister Vitaly] Zakharchenko to avoid a possibility of being held responsible in an open Ukrainian court," Lutsenko said.

Also, the law renders "impossible the efforts by Yanukovich and his defense counsel in European courts," Lutsenko added.

Meanwhile, Yanukovich’s attorney Vitaly Serdyuk said in comments for TASS that such an initiative from the Ukrainian authorities confirmed the political nature of the persecution of the former Ukrainian leader.

According to him, Poroshenko’s statement will be entered into the case files of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), transferred to Interpol, the European Court of Justice, and also to a number of international human rights organizations "as a direct sufficient and permissible proof of the political persecution of Viktor Yanukovich."

Ukraine’s parliament sent the law on conviction in absentia twice for finalization. On February 9, the parliamentarians refused to consider the bill that would allow starting the process of convicting the ex-president. The Verkhovna Rada adopted the bill in the first reading on February 23.