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Yuri Lutsenko Ukraine’s former interior minister has had his appeal against a prison sentence rejected.
Like his once close ally the jailed ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, Lutsenko is serving a four year term for abuse of power and embezzlement. He is due to be released in 2014. Both politicians are opponents of President Viktor Yanukovych.
Journalists were not let into the courtroom, where Lutsenko, who denies any wrongdoing, sat inside a glass-and-plastic box.
But outside the building the state prosecutor Mykola Kurapov defended the decision: “Lutsenko argued that he wasn’t responsible for the actions of his subordinates but the law is clear that a minister must bear personal responsibility for orders and policies he issues.
The High Court ruling cannot be challenged in any other Ukrainian court but President Yanukovych has suggested he may consider pardoning Lutsenko.
Lutsenko’s wife however is not optimistic: “I’m not expecting anything from this government nor from the president, but on the other hand we’re not going to stay in jail if Yanukovych decides to humiliate him and show false clemency. But we’re not going to beg him. The Lutsenko family will not ask for a pardon,” Iryna Lutsenko said.
The European Union has criticised the outcome describing the convictions as selective justice which smack of political vengeance. Brussels has told Ukraine it needs to address the issue of politically motivated trials if it hopes to clinch landmark agreements on political association and free trade this year.
Our correspondent in Kiev, Evgeniya Rudenko says even though Yuri Lutsenko must remain behind bars, his lawyers plan to file an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.