KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian state prosecutors urged a high court on Tuesday to reject the appeal of jailed ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko against her conviction for abuse of office, a case Western leaders have condemned as politically motivated.
Prosecutors argued that her guilt had been clearly established at her trial last year. The abuse of office conviction relates to a gas deal which Tymoshenko, 51, brokered with Russia in 2009 when she was prime minister.
The government of President Viktor Yanukovich says the pact was reckless and saddled the former Soviet republic with an enormous price for strategic supplies of gas which is now taking a toll on the heavily-stressed economy.
Tymoshenko, who is receiving treatment for back trouble in a state-run clinic in the city of Kharkiv and is not present at the appeal hearing, denies betraying the national interest and says she is the victim of a vendetta by Yanukovich, who narrowly beat her for the presidency in February 2010.
When the appeal hearing resumed on Tuesday, state prosecutor Oksana Drogobytskaya said Tymoshenko was guilty of a crime which had had serious consequences.
“During the investigation ... the intentional nature of her actions had been established. Everything points to the fact that the actions of Tymoshenko were criminal,” she said. “The (gas) contract continues to inflict massive damage on Ukraine.”
Tymoshenko’s lawyers last week argued in court that negotiating the gas agreement with Russia had been a political act which did not amount to criminal action.
Western governments have called for Tymoshenko’s release.
But, with a parliamentary election set for October 28, the Yanukovich leadership has shown no signs of freeing Tymoshenko and authorities are instead piling up other charges against her.
In a separate trial, which has been adjourned several times because of back trouble which has confined her to hospital, she is accused of embezzlement and tax evasion going back to alleged offences when she was in business in the 1990s.
Tymoshenko was a leader of the 2004 Orange Revolution protests that derailed Yanukovich’s first bid for the presidency, but failed to produce a strong unified government.
Since Yanukovich defeated her in the election, some of her opposition allies have also faced corruption-related charges.
In the political fall-out from her prosecution, the European Union shelved agreements on political association and free trade with Ukraine, while the United States has also criticised the court action against her as politically motivated.
Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Writing By Richard Balmforth; Editing by Mark Heinrich