Ukraine's jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko has gone on a hunger strike after claiming she was beaten by prison guards, her lawyer said Tuesday. Her conviction last year on charges of abuse of power drew condemnation from the West.
REUTERS - Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, in prison on abuse-of-office charges, has gone on a hunger strike after prison guards beat her up while forcibly moving the opposition leader to a hospital last week, her lawyer said on Tuesday.
Tymoshenko, 51, is the main opponent of President Viktor Yanukovich and her conviction last year drew condemnation from the West, which saw it as an example of selective justice.
The state prison service moved Tymoshenko, who has complained about back pain, to a state-run hospital in the city of Kharkiv last Friday, only to return her to a prison in the same city on Sunday after she refused to be examined.
On Tuesday, Tymoshenko’s lawyer, Serhiy Vlasenko, told reporters prison guards had beaten Tymoshenko in order to force her to leave her prison cell last Friday.
“Her arms are all bruised and there is a huge bruise on her belly which has not disappeared even after four days,” he said.
“Yulia Tymoshenko has gone on a hunger strike.”
A state prosecutor denied allegations of beating but said Tymoshenko’s move last week had indeed been forced.
“She packed up and got dressed and then lay on her bed and said ‘I am not going anywhere’,” Interfax news agency quoted Kharkiv regional prosecutor Henady Tyurin as saying.
“The law... allows the prison service to use physical force:
(guards) lifted her, carried her to the car and took her to the hospital.”
Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison last October on charges of abusing her power as prime minister in brokering a 2009 gas deal with Russia.
Yanukovich’s government says the deal ran against national interests and has saddled Ukraine with an exorbitant price for vital energy supplies.
Tymoshenko is now standing a new trial, charged with tax evasion and attempted embezzlement, and faces up to 12 years in prison if found guilty.
Tymoshenko has denied any wrongdoing in both cases, dismissing them as part of a campaign of repression by Yanukovich’s government.
The European Union has warned Ukraine that its members will not ratify key bilateral agreements on political association and free trade while Tymoshenko remains in prison.
Tymoshenko was one of the leaders of the 2004 Orange Revolution which derailed Yanukovich’s first bid for the presidency. She went on to serve twice as prime minister and lost the 2010 presidential vote to Yanukovich in a close race.
Date created : 2012-04-24