July 10, 2012 / 7:53 AM / 8 years ago

Ukraine delays hearings in Tymoshenko tax case

KHARKIV, Ukraine (Reuters) - The tax evasion trial of Yulia Tymoshenko was put off until July 23 due to the former Ukrainian prime minister’s inability to attend hearings on health grounds, a court ruled on Tuesday.

A supporter of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is seen in a protest tent camp in central Kiev July 1, 2012. Ukraine kept the embarrassing case of jailed ex-premier Yulia Tymoshenko largely out of sight, the West's token protests barely registered and Ukraine, in the end, threw a smiling, trouble-free party that made it many friends among Europe's soccer-going public. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

Tymoshenko, sentenced to seven years in prison last October on a separate abuse-of-office charge, is being treated for back trouble in a state-run hospital.

The conviction of Tymoshenko, a key political opponent of President Viktor Yanukovich, has soured Ukraine’s ties with the European Union, which sees the ruling as an example of selective justice.

In a hearing in the city of Kharkiv, Judge Kostyantyn Sadovsky adjourned further hearings into the tax evasion case until July 23 as court-appointed doctors had yet to complete Tymoshenko’s examination and establish whether she is fit to attend her own trial.

Tymoshenko, 51, denies wrongdoing. She has said she is not well enough to attend the court proceedings.

The case involves tax evasion and embezzlement charges dating to the 1990s when Tymoshenko was a prominent businesswoman.

According to state prosecutors, Tymoshenko’s now-defunct gas trading company caused damages equivalent to about $4 million to the state, while she personally evaded paying $85,000 in taxes.

The EU has already shelved agreements on free trade and political association with the former Soviet republic in response to Tymoshenko’s conviction last year, and has called for her release.

Tymoshenko helped lead the 2004 Orange Revolution protests that doomed Yanukovich’s first bid for the presidency, but lost the 2010 presidential election to him in a close run-off.

She and a number of her opposition allies have since faced corruption-related charges which Tymoshenko has dismissed as political revenge.

She has appealed her abuse-of-office conviction and hearings in her appeal will resume on Thursday in Kiev.

Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Alessandra Rizzo

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