A Ukrainian high court has rejected an appeal by Yulia Tymoshenko, the country's former prime minister, against a conviction for abuse of office for which she is serving a seven-year prison sentence.

Tymoshenko, currently in hospital, was jailed last October and Wednesday's ruling - her last chance at appeal within the nation - confirmed the sentence handed down in October.

"[Viktor] Yanukovich [the Ukrainian president] expected that because EU leaders criticised Mrs Tymoshenko four years ago, that they would not care about her being in jail now. But [the EU cares] because for the EU human rights and elections are a sort of secular religion."

- Dimitri Babich, a political analyst at Russia Profile magazine

Tymoshenko was an architect of Ukraine's 2004 Orange Revolution that promoted democracy and a runner-up in the 2010 presidential election.

She was convicted last year on charges that stemmed from a 2009 gas contract she signed with Russia. The 51-year-old is also charged with tax evasion and embezzlement - but she says the charges are politically motivated.

In April, pictures of Tymoshenko showed what appeared to be bruises and grazes on her stomach and arm. She claims to have been beaten in prison and started a 19-day hunger strike.

In May, Tymoshenko's tax and embezzlement trial was adjourned for the second time, after she refused to appear at court - blaming poor health.

Her case and claims of human rights abuses led to a number of international leaders refusing to attend the European football championships in Ukraine earlier this year.

"I don’t think the elections could be free and fair only judging by the fact that an obvious, very strong candidate, ie Yulia Tymoshenko, will stay in jail with a seven-year sentence and she is not the only one. There are other opposition leaders in the same situation."

- Georgi Gotev, a senior editor at Euractiv

Tymoshenko has urged Ukrainians to put up a fight against the ruling party in the coming parliamentary vote and has described her trial as "a battle between all sensible and strong people and an absolute evil".

The US has called for the release of Tymoshenko and rejected the entire case. In a statement the White House said: "The charges against Mrs Tymoshenko and the conduct of her trial have raised serious concerns about the government of Ukraine's commitment to democracy and rule of law."

So, is Yulia Tymoshenko a victim of selective justice?

Inside Story, with presenter David Foster, speaks to guests: Maxim Eristavi, a presenter at Voice of Capital radio; Dimitri Babich, a political analyst at Russia Profile magazine; and Georgi Gotev, a senior editor of Euractiv - a European Union information website.

Source: Al Jazeera