Ukraine Postpones Tymoshenko Appeal For Third Time

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's high court on Thursday postponed the appeal of jailed ex-premier Yulia Tymoshenko against her seven-year sentence for abuse of power for a third time at the request of the prosecution.

Tymoshenko supporters protest outside the Kiev court.

Judge Stanislav Mishchenko said the next hearing would be held on August 16 and demanded to see records of the hospitalised opposition leader's condition before proceeding with the case.

Two previous court delays in the hearing disappointed Tymoshenko attorneys who want the case to go before the European Court of Human Rights once all legal avenues are exhausted in Ukraine.

Tymoshenko did not attend the hearing because she is being treated in a Ukrainian state hospital for debilitating back pains she began experiencing shortly after her October conviction over a disputed gas deal with Russia.

But about a thousand of her supporters rallied outside the court building in central Kiev -- host city of the Euro 2012 football tournament final that was played on July 1 under of fears of an EU diplomatic boycott.

Many European leaders ended up attending the matches played in Ukraine after the ex-Soviet country postponed all court proceedings involving the flamboyant political rival of President Viktor Yanukovych.

But EU officials have also backed Tymoshenko's claims that her case was politically motivated and have demanded her quick release.

The defence team -- expecting the judge to uphold the sentence -- had asked the court to review the appeal without Tymoshenko so it could then file papers with the Strasbourg court.

The 51-year-old former Orange Revolution leader has refused to be either treated or touched by Ukrainian doctors as both a form of protests and alleged fears of being contaminated with a fatal disease.

The face of her one time ally and former president Viktor Yushchenko was disfigured by a mysterious poisoning that blamed on shadowy forces linked to Moscow.

The incident was never solved.

Another a former top Tymoshenko cabinet member, ex-interior minister Yuriy Lutsenko, developed hepatitis in jail.

The back pains have also kept Tymoshenko from attending a new tax case launched by prosecutors since her conviction that could almost double her time in jail.

Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka has also raised the possibility of charging Tymoshenko with involvement in the deadly November 1996 airport shooting of lawmaker and businessman Yevhen Shcherban.

Pshonka has alleged that Tymoshenko's business interests conflicted with those of the slain billionaire and claimed to hold enough evidence to go to court.

He suggested on Wednesday that Tymoshenko was only feigning illness so that she could push back her new trial and possibly avoid other charges hanging against her.

"Someone really wants Tymoshenko to be sick," Ukrainian media quoted Pshonka as saying.

"Is this right -- to drag a court case out like this? Should the hearings begin or not? Will this treatment last indefinitely?"

Tymoshenko's medical care is being overseen by a team of German doctors who visit her in the eastern city of Kharkiv where she has been hospitalised outside of prison.

Local media said one doctor who returned to Germany on Wednesday was seen off by a rowdy group of anti-Tymoshenko protesters who alleged that he was only proclaiming the opposition leader sick to get paid for his time.

"No money -- no illness!" the Interfax news agency quoted one protest poster as saying.

Source: AFP