Lutsenko refused release on health grounds
On Monday the Chernihiv Regional Court of Appeal rejected the appeal lodged by imprisoned former Interior Minister and opposition leader Yury Lutsenko. He had asked to be released from prison on the grounds of ill health.
The court stated that it found all the arguments presented by Lutsenko’s lawyers to be unfounded and therefore upheld the original refusal from the Mensk District Court. .
The rulings from Ukrainian courts and assessment from the Penitentiary Service are most unlikely to remove concern over Lutsenko’s continued imprisonment. As the EU-Ukraine Summit approaches, there had been suggestion that Lutsenko might be released on health grounds as a way of unblocking the total stalemate over the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. The EU has indicated that November is the final deadline for the signing of the agreement. This does not leave Ukraine’s leaders much time to prove readiness to put aside the selective justice which has led to the imprisonment of the most prominent opposition figures in the country and seriously marred Ukraine’s reputation. The refusal to release Lutsenko is clearly a bad sign.
Yury Lutsenko is understood to be suffering, at very least, from cyrrhosis of the liver and portal hypertension. He recently underwent surgery in Kyiv to remove intestinal polyps. His sudden removal from the clinic and return to the Mensk Prison Colony elicited statements of concern from Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, and others.
The EU has previously issued a statement calling on the Ukrainian government to take responsibility for the humanitarian aspects and for Lutsenko’s health, as well as for the risks linked with his return to the prison. The statement apparently calls on the Ukrainian authorities to observe Lutsenko’s right to see his relatives and to have telephone contact with them, as well as to receive legal assistance. As reported here, Yury Lutsenko was refused permission to even see his wife who is also his defence counsel while at the clinic in Kyiv.