Trial of Ukraine's sick Tymoshenko delayed again

KIEV Fri Nov 23, 2012 8:47am EST

An opposition supporter holds a poster displaying jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko during a rally to mark the eighth anniversary of the Orange Revolution in Kiev November 22, 2012. REUTERS/Anatolii Stepanov

An opposition supporter holds a poster displaying jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko during a rally to mark the eighth anniversary of the Orange Revolution in Kiev November 22, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Anatolii Stepanov

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KIEV (Reuters) - Jailed Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko's trial for tax evasion was adjourned again on Friday until December 18 because the former prime minister, hospitalized for back trouble, could not attend.

Tymoshenko, the main political foe of President Viktor Yanukovich, was sentenced to seven years in prison in October last year on abuse-of-office charges. Her second trial, for alleged tax dodging and embezzlement, was originally meant to commence in April but has been repeatedly postponed.

The 51-year-old denies wrongdoing and says she is being persecuted by Yanukovich in revenge for her role in the 2004 "Orange Revolution" which derailed his first presidential bid.

Tymoshenko has been in a state hospital since May, receiving treatment for back pains. Her health was also harmed, her family says, by an 18-day hunger strike she called off on November 16.

Judge Kostyantyn Sadovsky postponed the trial again.

"The court rules it impossible to consider the case in the absence of the accused, Tymoshenko, and her defense counsel. An adjournment is ordered until December 18," Sadovsky said, according to Interfax news agency on Friday.

The abuse of office charge for which Tymoshenko was jailed stems from a gas deal she brokered with Russia in 2009 as prime minister. The new tax evasion and embezzlement charges relate to events in the 1990s when she ran a major gas trading company.

The European Union has supported Tymoshenko, calling her case an example of selective justice, and shelved agreements on free trade and political association with Ukraine.

(Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; editing by Jason Webb)

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