KHARKIV, Ukraine (Reuters) - A Ukrainian court on Monday put off until July 31 the hearings in a tax evasion case against former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko because she was unable to attend the trial for health reasons.
Tymoshenko, sentenced to seven years in prison last October on a separate charge of abuse of office, is being treated for back trouble in a state-run hospital.
“The court has found it impossible to hear the case in Tymoshenko’s absence,” Judge Kostyantyn Sadovsky told the court in the city of Kharkiv.
Tymoshenko is President Viktor Yanukovich’s main political opponent, and her prosecution for abuse of office soured Ukraine’s ties with the European Union which saw it as an example of selective justice.
In the present case Tymoshenko, 51, denies the tax evasion and embezzlement charges, which go back to the 1990s when she was a prominent businesswoman. She has said she is not well enough to attend the court proceedings.
Prosecutors say that Tymoshenko’s now-defunct gas trading company caused losses to the state equivalent to about $4 million, while she personally evaded paying $85,000 in taxes.
The European Union has shelved landmark deals 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 was a leader of the 2004 Orange Revolution protests that derailed Yanukovich’s first bid for the presidency and has since been prime minister twice.
Since losing the 2010 presidential election to Yanukovich in a close run-off, Tymoshenko and a number of her opposition allies have faced corruption-related charges which Tymoshenko has dismissed as political revenge.
Writing by Olzhas Auyezov, editing by Tim Pearce