Ukraine court strips Tymoshenko ally of parliament seat

KIEV Wed Mar 6, 2013 5:45pm EST

Opposition deputies block the speaker's rostrum to protest against an initiative to deprive Sergiy Vlasenko, their colleague and the lawyer of jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, of the deputative powers and status during a session of the Ukrainian parliament in Kiev, March 5, 2013. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

Opposition deputies block the speaker's rostrum to protest against an initiative to deprive Sergiy Vlasenko, their colleague and the lawyer of jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, of the deputative powers and status during a session of the Ukrainian parliament in Kiev, March 5, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Gleb Garanich

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KIEV (Reuters) - A Ukrainian court stripped an ally of jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko of his seat in parliament on Wednesday, prompting criticism from the European Union which considers his case politically motivated.

The ruling was made less than two weeks after an EU-Ukraine summit where Brussels told Kiev it needed to address the issue of selective justice if it wanted to secure landmark deals on political association and free trade with the bloc.

The court barred Serhiy Vlasenko, a member of opposition movement Batkivshchyna, following a motion from an ally of the country's President Viktor Yanukovich, the party said in a statement.

The motion had accused Vlasenko of working as a lawyer - a practice that deputies are barred from, the Batkivshchyna statement added.

Vlasenko, best known for advising Tymoshenko's defense team, has denied any wrongdoing.

European Commissioner for Enlargement, Stefan Fuele, condemned the ruling, saying on his Twitter feed: "Stripping a parliamentarian of his mandate like being done in case of Vlasenko is not European way. Does this bring Ukraine closer to EU?"

Earlier this week, Fuele and Catherine Ashton, the EU commissioner in charge of foreign relations, warned Ukraine against "creating any perception of misuse of the judiciary for political purposes", referring to Vlasenko's case.

Tymoshenko, who led the 2004 Orange Revolution protests that derailed Yanukovich's first bid for the presidency, was jailed for seven years on abuse-of-office charges in 2011.

She now faces fresh tax evasion and embezzlement charges in a separate trial and state prosecutors say they suspect her of being behind a 1996 contract killing of a local businessmen and politician.

Tymoshenko, who served twice as prime minister before losing the 2010 presidential race to Yanukovich, has dismissed all charges as revenge by his camp.

Her initial conviction prompted the EU to put off the signing of the association agreement and the free trade pact with Kiev.

Brussels has since said the deals could be signed in November this year, but only if Ukraine responds to its concerns.

(Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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