Europe’s human rights court has said that Ukraine’s jailing of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko was a politically-motivated violation of her rights.
A Ukrainian government official stormed out of the courtroom after Tuesday’s ruling in a case that has strained the former Soviet state’s ties with Europe and the United States.
Tymoshenko, an architect of Ukraine’s 2004 pro-democracy Orange Revolution, was sentenced to seven years in prison in October 2011 after being convicted of exceeding her powers as premier while negotiating a gas contract with Russia.
Tymoshenko says her jailing was intended to keep her out of politics and that her rights were violated. The court found unanimously that her detention in August 2011 was arbitrary.
It’s unclear if a decision by the European court would be legally binding in Ukraine.
The rights court’s pronouncement came as a presidential pardon commission said on Saturday it was too soon to consider pardoning Tymoshenko.
The commission said that as some criminal charges against Tymoshenko were still being investigated and the courts had not yet ruled, the “issue of her pardon is premature.”
Last Thursday foreign ministers of several EU countries visited Ukraine and said there was unlikely to be rapid progress on free trade and political association deals, citing the Tymoshenko case as a major obstacle.