Travelling Court Stunt in Tymoshenko prosecution
A “court hearing” took place on Thursday to consider an application from the SBU [Security Service] investigators to remand former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in custody. It resulted in a court order detaining her indefinitely.
The grotesque nature of this stunt could not be more overt. Ms Tymoshenko has been in custody now since early August when Judge Kireyev effectively ordered her arrest for “bad behaviour” in court. Since then the same judge has sentenced her to seven years imprisonment in a move swiftly and unequivocally condemned as politically motivated by all democratic countries.
Within two days of that verdict in October new charges were concocted, old criminal investigations resurrected and waved about triumphantly. One of these “investigations”, supposedly involving embezzlement of public funding through the company United Energy Systems of Ukraine is being run by the SBU. They “in agreement with the Prosecutor General’s Office” have now decided Ms Tymoshenko needs to be remanded in custody …again.
The merging of a few different cases and creation of a joint investigation group under SBU jurisdiction was announced first on the Prosecutor General’s website on Wednesday. This lists the alleged crimes and amounts of money involved under investigation by the SBU and the State Tax Service. With blithe disregard for such niceties as the presumption of innocence, the Prosecutor General’s Office informs that: “Taking into consideration that the crimes were committed by one person, on 6 December 2011 the Prosecutor General’s Office placed all the above-mentioned crimes under the jurisdiction of the Security Service investigators.”
The SBU saw fit to cut and paste this outrageous mockery of a fundamental principle of law and then informed that due to the nature of the crimes, it had “submitted an application to the Shevchenkivsky District Court in Kyiv to have the accused, Y. Tymoshenko remanded in custody as restraint measure.”
More worrying still, the court, and specifically Judge Andriy Trubnikov rejected the defence’s request for the hearing to be postponed due to Ms Tymoshenko’s poor health and decided to hold it in Ms Tymoshenko’s cell.
This “court hearing” was thus held in secret with neither MPs nor journalists allowed to be present. According to media reports, after an almost 12 hour session, the Judge issued the relevant order choosing detention as the restraint measure against Yulia Tymoshenko
Taras Chornovil, Regions Party Deputy whose apparently critical comments do not prevent him voting on every issue with the ruling majority, has suggested that the stunt with the court hearing and second arrest is aimed at preventing the first step being taken on 19 December towards the signing of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement.
The farce coincided with the President’s signing of a highly controversial Law on the Parliamentary Elections. This retains all the elements most strongly criticized by the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission, as well as Ukrainian and international NGOs as increasing opportunities for irregularities, excessive use of administrative resources and, as a result, unfair elections..
There seems little room for optimism. Whether or not the move is a deliberate message to the West, those in power do seem extraordinarily slow on the uptake. In this inside out version of the “lady doth protest too much, the ever-increasing number of criminal investigations against Ms Tymoshenko and the latest extraordinary examples of legal nihilism reflect badly not on her but on those orchestrating the show.
They are obtuse for another reason. Instead of looking to Russia for a pat on the back for flouting EU standards and advice, they would be well advised to carefully follow what is happening on the streets and on social networks in Russia. Patience for orchestrated stunts is never boundless.