Ukrainian former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was sentenced in October 2011 to be imprisoned for seven years. At the time nothing her supporters at home or in the EU said about it would change this. Neither would her loud and clear repetitions that Ukrainian justice is corrupt.
She said: “I think the guilty statement made today by President Yanukovic gives Ukrainians more strength to understand even more that the dictatorship and the regime do not exist separately. They must be eliminated.”
Even before she was put on trial, the former Orange Revolution leader was saying President Yanukovic’s methods were like those the Soviets before him used to get rid of their political adversaries. She was locked up for repeated contempt of court.
In the 2010 presidential elections, her partner in the revolution, Viktor Yushchenko was a shadow of his former self, and it was she who voters chose to run in the second round against Yanukovic.
When he claimed victory, she claimed fraud, and refused to step down as prime minister until a censure motion could be brought against his government. Then she led the opposition.
Now she was accused of having abused her power by signing a gas deal with Russia which was judged not to have been in Ukraine’s interests.
This had been in 2009, after months of a dragged-out gas supply crisis between Kiev and Moscow. The Tymoshenko-Putin agreement ended the contract standoff.
When she was found guilty, this was denounced as political persecution by the EU, the US, Russia and a range of European countries and NATO, as well as by international human rights organisations.
While her conditions in prison were not the worst Ukraine has to offer, Tymoshenko protested of repeated humiliations, and this was taken up by her family and friends and European sympathisers.
It included receiving inadequate health treatment, and claims reported by the Committee for the Prevention of Torture that physical force was used against her when she was transported between prison and hospital.
She would also resort to hunger strike in her bid for fair treatment.
The Council of Europe records it was “deeply troubled” by what it called Ukrainian authorities’ “abuse of the criminal justice system for the persecution of political opponents.”