First Day of Tymoshenko Appeal
Court hearings into the appeal by former Prime Minister and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko against the seven year sentence for “abuse of office” passed in October began in Kyiv today. A statement from Ms Tymoshenko was given to the court in which the former Prime Minister explained that she could not move by herself and could not therefore be present. The prosecution objected and later in the day produced documents from the doctors at the SIZO [detention centre] and Health Ministry which supposedly indicated that Ms Tymoshenko was able to take part. However one of the defence lawyers read the medical certificates to the end and discovered that they were suggesting that her participation was possible only at a hearing at the SIZO.
The court at the end of the hearing on Tuesday nonetheless summoned her to attend on Wednesday. Serhiy Vlasenko asserts that she can only be brought to the court by force.
Over 2 thousand supporters of Ms Tymoshenko gathered outside the Kyiv Court of Appeal and there were scuffles with the Berkut riot police and Internal Forces officers, also out in force. Two police officers were injured when supporters tried to break through their cordon.The Kyiv Police report threatened that a criminal investigation would be initiated after the men had undergone a full examination.
The defence lawyers initially applied for the removal of presiding judge, Olena Sytailo. They argued that Judge Sytailo had demonstrated her lack of objectivity during the preliminary hearing on 1 December. She had received notes, after which a break was make apparently because she was taken ill. This, they said, indicated that pressure was being brought to bear on her. They pointed out also that Ms Sytailo had made notes during the preliminary hearing yet none had been in the court ruling. They say that the conclusion can be drawn that the court ruling had been written before the hearing.
After this application was rejected, Ms Tymoshenko’s lawyers demanded the withdrawal of the entire panel of judges. Mr Vlasenko asserted that one of the judges, Svitlana Frych, is married to the head of a department of the Prosecutor General’s Office. All of the arguments for their withdrawal concentrated on alleged lack of objectivity and pointed to the fact that the makeup of the panel had changed at the last minute.
As reported, Olena Sytailo was appointed presiding judge on the eve of the preliminary hearing.
This application was also rejected.
The appeal hearing will continue on Wednesday.