KHARKIV, Ukraine (Reuters) - A second trial of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko was again adjourned on Tuesday until November 23 because the former prime minister, who is on hunger strike, could not attend.
Tymoshenko, the main political opponent of President Viktor Yanukovich, is already serving a seven-year term following her conviction for abuse of office in October last year. Her second trial is for alleged tax evasion and embezzlement.
The 51-year-old, who denies wrong-doing and says she is being persecuted by Yanukovich to eliminate her as a political rival, went on hunger strike on October 29 to protest against alleged vote-rigging in a national election the day before.
The judge adjourned her trial shortly after the hearing resumed. “The court rules it impossible to consider the affair in the absence of the accused, Tymoshenko, and her defense counsel. An adjournment is ordered until November 23,” said judge Kostyantyn Sadovsky, according to Interfax news agency.
State prosecutor Viktoriya Kalyta, in comments to journalists later, accused Tymoshenko of stalling.
“For six months now the accused has been trying to avoid responsibility and not appearing in court. But sooner or later she will stand before the court. Sooner or later she will have to appear in court and give her explanations and her arguments,” said Kalyta.
The abuse of office charge for which Tymoshenko was jailed is linked to a gas deal she brokered with Russia in 2009 as prime minister.
Her trial on tax evasion and embezzlement charges, relating to events in the 1990s when she was a businesswoman, has been put off several times because of back trouble which prevented her from attending.
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 over the issue.
Despite her absence in jail, her party Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) put up a strong showing with other opposition parties in the October 28 election. But Yanukovich’s Party of the Regions should, with traditional allies such as the communists, be able to hold on to a majority in the new parliament.
Additional reporting by Sergiy Karazy; Writing By Richard Balmforth