Tmoshenko Trial Enters Final Stage In Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine began final hearings Tuesday in the trial of Yulia Tymoshenko after a two-week suspension that saw Kiev come under renewed EU pressure to release the opposition leader and ex-premier.

Ukrainian police tussle with supporters of Yulia Tymoshenko outside the Pechersk district court in Kiev. Ukraine has begun final hearings in the trial of Tymoshenko after a two-week suspension that saw Kiev come under renewed EU pressure to release the opposition leader and ex-premier.

The session began with the defence filing an unsuccessful attempt to submit new evidence clearing Tymoshenko's name and continued with closing arguments and the planned announcement of the formal indictment.

"The state prosecution believes that the defendant's guilt has been fully proven by witness testimony and the evidence," prosecutor Liliya Frolova told the court.

Tymoshenko's abuse of power trial has set the current leadership at odds with the European Union in the heat of crunch negotiations on Ukraine taking the first step towards European Union membership.

The one-time Orange Revolution leader argues that the charges against her are a political vendetta launched against her by great rival and current head of state Viktor Yanukovych -- a charge the president denies.

But a visiting EU official warned earlier this month that if Tymoshenko was convicted and jailed it could deal a major blow to Kiev's EU integration plans.

"If this issue is not being solved and if she indeed is put in prison... it would be problematic," European Union Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule said during a visit to the Black Sea city of Yalta.

"It would seem to many totally incompatible with the very values that are the basis for the agreement," Fule said.

His comments prompted Ukraine's Prime Minister Mykola Azarov to remark that he viewed links between his country's European aspirations and the trial as "immoral".

Tymoshenko's second stint as prime minister ended in March 2010 when she lost a closely fought presidential election to Yanukovych -- a leader who was believed to favour closer relations with Moscow.

The new government then launched a series of probes into Tymoshenko's assistants and charged the former prime minister on three counts. Hearings on the abuse of office charge began on June 24.

She was arrested for contempt of court on August 5 after repeated confrontations with the judge and has since been held in a Kiev holding cell.

Yanukovych meanwhile has been busy negotiating closer EU ties after rebuffing Russia's efforts to pull Ukraine into a Moscow-led economic union and win ownership rights of its neighbour's gas transmission network.

Source: AFP

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