Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Jarring prejudicial comments by president in Europe

Last Friday, in Bratislava, president Yanukovych was quoted as saying:
"[As] to Yulia Tymoshenko, my wish is that she will show [or will prove] her innocence in court, and can live, work, and occupy herself with her beloved matters."

In most countries, defendants accused of crimes do not have to prove anything - they are innocent until the prosecutor proves their guilt 'beyond reasonable doubt' in a courtroom. Yanukovych's statement, was therefore, highly prejudicial.

And yesterday, in Strasbourg, he was asked:

"And if we assume that Yulia Tymoshenko will, nevertheless, be convicted. What do you think.. what will be the legitimacy of next parliamentary elections, without the participation of the leader of the opposition?"

Yanukoych reply was again prejudicial: "It is too early to say - we need to separate politics and the law! In no case should any criminal activity be covered over by political slogans. I am convinced of this."

Mustafa Nayem's comments, in the conclusion of his 'Ukrainska Pravda' piece describing yesterday's visit by Yanukovych to the European parliament:

[This] response of the President was indirect. But one thing was obvious: no matter what, and without even waiting for a court decision, he had already decided that the activities of Tymoshenko are criminal. And all other attendant processes - including protests in Europe and at home against selective justice will be considered exclusively as 'political slogans'.

Nayem correctly points out that preventing Tymoshenko visiting Strasbourg on the same day as the president, despite appeals by the most influential group in the European parliament,
was an act worthy of a third-world country. Tymoshenko's visit would have changed nothing, but Yanukovych would definitely would have gained 'brownie points' for being fair-minded had she attended. As it was, Tymoshenko's ban merely reveals a morbid fear of the woman by the ruling authorities.

Meanwhile, the British ambassador in Kyiv, Leigh Turner, in a newspaper article, has declared:

"We have clearly explained to representatives of the Ukrainian authorities, that any impression of selectivity and disproportionate use of legal action [against leaders of the political opposition] may substantially and permanently damage the international image of Ukraine. At the moment we do not consider sanctions such as travel bans, appropriate. [But] in the case of the deterioration of the situation we will be forced to reconsider our position and will consult with our European and international partners as to the most appropriate response."

The problem for Yanukovych and his advisors is any retreat from their current plan to stage show-trials against Tymoshenko, Lutsenko and other opposition leaders, would be a huge humiliation. They now know the price that may have to be paid if the trials, which will be closely scrutinised, are not considered absolutely fair.

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