KHARKIV, Ukraine (Reuters) - A Ukrainian court on Tuesday adjourned the tax evasion and embezzlement trial of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko until October 15, citing her inability to attend the trial due to poor health.
The 51-year-old opposition leader is serving a seven-year sentence on a separate abuse-of-office charge linked to a gas deal she brokered with Russia in 2009 as prime minister.
A Ukrainian high court last month rejected her appeal against that conviction and Tymoshenko’s lawyers now plan to challenge it in the European Court for Human Rights.
Her trial in the city of Kharkiv for alleged tax evasion and embezzlement going back to the 1990s has been put off several times as she refused to attend because of back trouble for which she is receiving treatment in a state-run hospital.
“The court has ruled that it is impossible to hear the case in the absence of defendant Tymoshenko and her attorney Yevgenia (Tymoshenko’s daughter),” Judge Kostyantyn Sadovsky told the courtroom.
Tymoshenko, the main political adversary of President Viktor Yanukovich, has dismissed all charges against her as politically motivated.
The European Union has supported Tymoshenko, calling her case an example of selective justice and shelving key agreements on free trade and political association with Ukraine over the issue.
Tymoshenko led the 2004 Orange Revolution protests that doomed Yanukovich’s first bid for the presidency, and has since served twice as prime minister.
Yanukovich, who beat her in a close run-off to become president in February 2010, has refused to intervene in Tymoshenko’s case despite being urged to do so by the West.
A “guilty” verdict in the tax evasion case would keep Tymoshenko behind bars even if the European Court of Human Rights eventually overturns her first conviction.
Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Catherine Evans