Jailed Ukrainian Opposition Politician Ends Hunger Strike

KIEV, Ukraine -- A leading Ukrainian opposition politician jailed on corruption charges denounced his prosecution on Monday as he ended a hunger strike he began a month ago.

Yuri Lutsenko

'My own detention is proof there is no justice in Ukraine,' former interior minister Yuri Lutsenko said at a court hearing in Kiev. 'This is about 46 million people who have no defence.

'(You think that) what's going on isn't like the (Soviet-era) purges in 1937? Then what is this?'

Lutsenko, who served as interior minister from 2007-10, was a leader in Ukraine's 2004 pro-democracy Orange Revolution.

He has been in pre-trial detention since his arrest on December 26. He has said he is being prosecuted because of his opposition to the government of President Viktor Yanukovych.

'I began the hunger strike to show that in this country there is no justice and ... now I need my strength,' he said.

Prosecutors have not yet filed formal charges against Lutsenko, but he is accused of having falsified documents to obtain a senior government job for his driver.

Lutsenko had been drinking only water since beginning his protest on April 22. He reportedly lost more than 20 kilogrammes and was suffering from low blood pressure and faced the possibility of kidney failure, his lawyers said.

His legal team filed motions for his immediate release on grounds of poor health and demanded that the case against him be dropped for lack of evidence.

A judge ruled Lutsenko was healthy enough to remain in detention until the next pre-trial hearing, which was scheduled for May 27. Bailiffs then removed him from the courtroom.

'This means (Lutsenko) is being held indefinitely without any charges filed against him,' said his lawyer, Ihor Fomin.

Yulia Tymoshenko, leader of Ukraine's opposition, told reporters at the entrance to the courtroom that the charges against Lutsenko constituted repression of the government's critics.

'People like Yury Lutsenko are heroes. They will go down in history as the ones who did not break,' she said.

Lutsenko courted controversy as interior minister, directing an anti-corruption campaign against police and big business. His personal conflicts with other politicians sometimes ended in fist fights.

President Yanukovych has said his administration will prosecute corrupt officials past and present without regard to political affiliation.

Source: DPA

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