KHARKIV, Ukraine (Reuters) - The tax evasion and embezzlement trial of former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko was adjourned on Monday until November 13 because poor health meant she could not attend.
Tymoshenko, 51, the main political opponent of President Viktor Yanukovich, is already 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.
Her trial in the city of Kharkiv on tax evasion and embezzlement charges 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.
A guilty verdict would keep Tymoshenko behind bars even if the European Court of Human Rights overturns her first conviction after the Ukraine high court rejected her appeal.
Tymoshenko has dismissed all charges against her as politically motivated.
“The court has ruled that it is impossible to hear the case in the absence of Tymoshenko and her lawyer,” Judge Kostyantyn Sadovsky told the court in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
The European Union has supported Tymoshenko, calling her case an example of selective justice and shelving agreements on free trade and political association with Ukraine over the issue.
The West has also said her imprisonment could affect foreign observers’ assessment of a parliamentary election on October 28 in which Yanukovich’s Party of the Region seeks to retain a majority.
Tymoshenko led the 2004 Orange Revolution protests that derailed 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.
Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Alison Williams