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EU 'Regrets' Ukrainian Court Decision To Uphold Verdict Against Ex-Minister

The European Union on Thursday expressed 'regret' at recent decision by Ukraine's Higher Specialized Court for Civil and Criminal Cases to uphold the verdict against former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko, noting that his trial was not up to international standards.

"We have noted with regret yesterday's decision by Ukraine's Higher Specialized Court for Civil and Criminal Cases to uphold the verdict against Mr Yuriy Lutsenko of four years' imprisonment," EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy Stefan Fule said in a joint statement.

They said earlier concerns that Lutsenko's trial did not respect international standards were reinforced by last year's judgment of the European Court of Human Rights which held that his pre-trial arrest in December 2010 had been arbitrary and that the lawfulness of his arrest and detention had not been properly reviewed.

They also commented the efforts undertaken by the European Parliament's monitoring mission to Ukraine headed by former Presidents Pat Cox and Aleksander Kwasniewski, and called on the Ukrainian authorities to step up cooperation with the mission to "redress the effects and remove the concerns regarding selective justice."

"This would also require, among other issues, consideration of the health condition of Mr Lutsenko and implementation of further judicial reforms. We will continue to monitor closely developments in Ukraine and we look forward to the full implementation of the conclusions of the 10 December 2012 Foreign Affairs Council and 25 February 2013 EU-Ukraine Summit," they added.

Lutsenko was once a close ally of the jailed opposition leader and ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who was sentenced in 2011 to seven years in prison for exceeding her powers in signing gas contracts with Russia in 2009. Both Lutsenko and Tymoshenko are opponents of President Viktor Yanukovych.

Many of Tymoshenko's former Cabinet colleagues and political allies are currently in prison on various charges ranging from corruption to power abuse, prompting concerns about the country's political future. Tymoshenko's case has seriously strained relations between Kiev and the West.

While the United States has condemned the case against Tymoshenko and some of her allies as "selective prosecution of political opponents, the EU has warned that they would have profound implications on EU-Ukraine bilateral relations and affect Ukraine's integration into the European bloc.

by RTT Staff Writer

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