German MEP spectators demand release of political prisoners in Ukraine


At the match between Germany – Holland in Kharkiv, two German MEPs – R. Harms and Verner Schulz – together with about 50 other people unfurled banners reading “Release all political prisoners” and “Fair play in football and politics”.

Harms and Schulz were supposed to have visited imprisoned former Prime Minister and opposition leader, Yulia Tymoshenko on Wednesday, but lightening let to their flight being cancelled and they arrived too late.

Mr Schulz explained that their visit had been intended to draw the attention of the European community to the problem.

“We don’t want to turn our gaze away. We want to support the people who helped the country bring the European Championship to Ukraine, and who are now in prison while others are basking in the championship’s rays”.

“President Viktor Yanukovych offered grubby deals according to which he’d release Tymoshenko if Ukraine received the prospect of EU membership. Tymoshenko would thus be made a hostage.”

On Wednesday Reuters reported Germany’s foreign minister urging German fans to remember Yulia Tymoshenko as they gathered for their country’s game against the Netherlands. Tymoshenko’s daughter Yevgenia also appealed to fans attending the Euro 2012 tournament to "send a clear message" to Ukrainian authorities to free her mother. 

"I hope that amid all the enthusiasm focused on the leather ball, the destiny of Yulia Tymoshenko and of all other Ukrainian opposition activists sitting in jail will not be forgotten", German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said. 

The European Union and the United States say Tymoshenko’s trial and imprisonment are politically motivated and as a mark of protest senior EU officials have stayed away from matches in Ukraine, which is co-hosting the championship with Poland.

In a sign that he would not bow to Western pressure to release Tymoshenko, Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovich stirred up a storm on Wednesday by linking his arch rival to a contract murder 16 years ago of a powerful businessman.

In the Kharkiv hospital, Tymoshenko is under constant video surveillance and has limited access to daylight, according to German doctors who have treated her.
Tymoshenko’s appeal against her conviction is due to be heard on June 26 in Kiev. The day before, a court in Kharkiv is scheduled to resume hearing another charge against her of tax evasion and embezzlement
From reports by Reuters and here

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