A Ukrainian high court on Wednesday rejected an appeal by jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko against her conviction for abuse of office, an outcome likely to complicate Ukraine’s already poor relations with the West.
“The judges of the court have reached the conclusion that the appeal cannot be satisfied,” judge Olexander Yelfimov said delivering an unexpectedly speedy ruling.
Western leaders condemned the seven-year prison term handed to the 51-year-old opposition leader in October as political persecution, and blocked strategic agreements with the European Union on political association and a free-trade zone.
But despite months of chiding by the European Union and the United States, which see Tymoshenko as a victim of selective justice, President Viktor Yanukovich has refused to act to secure her release. No-one had expected her to be released on Wednesday.
Tymoshenko, known in her heyday for a peasant-style hair braid and fiery rhetoric, was not present in court because of persistent back trouble which has kept her confined to a state-run hospital in eastern Ukraine.
About 300 of her supporters gathered outside the courtroom, chanting slogans such as “Yulia - Freedom!” and “Keep convicts inside and get Yulia out!”
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