February 12, 2013

Europe makes new plea for Lutsenko's release

Europe makes new plea for Lutsenko's release
Feb. 12, 2013, 1:28 a.m. | Politics — by Katya Gorchinskaya
Yuriy Lutsenko (L), former Ukrainian interior minister ally of the jailed ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko gestures from a caged area inside the court during a verdict hearing in Kiev on February 27, 2012. Lutsenko, who was arrested in December 2010 and has been held in detention ever since, was found guilty by a district court in Kiev of abusing his powers while in office was sentenced to four years in jail in a trial denounced by her supporters as politically motivated..
 President Viktor Yanukovych has received a new appeal to solve one of his two big political headaches. All he has to do is agree to release ex-Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko, imprisoned for abuse of office charges, on humanitarian grounds.
Former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and former European Parliament President Pat Cox, who visited Ukraine earlier this month, wrote a letter to Yanukovych seeking Lutsenko's release. They are waiting for his response - hopefully, by Feb. 25, when a Ukraine-European Union summit is held in Brussels.

The letter calls on Yanukovych to release Lutsenko from prison on humanitarian grounds. It was endorsed by Lutsenko’s wife Iryna.
Lutsenko is currently serving a four-year prison term in Menska colony in northern Ukraine on abuse of office charges. The European Court for Human Rights last year ruled that his imprisonment was a case of political persecution, and ordered the Ukrainian government to restore his human rights. So far, however, he only received 15,000 euro in compensation.

The letter was passed on to the president on Feb. 8 by EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele, several sources in the diplomatic community told the Kyiv Post. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because of sensitivity of the issue.
Lutsenko was one of the leaders of the 2004 Orange Revolution and an ally of Ukraine's most famous prisoner, ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, whose abuse of office conviction in 2011 is seen as more political persecution.
In two years in prison, Lutsenko’s health deteriorated significantly. He had to undergo a surgery last month, and on Feb.11 made a statement that he suspected internal bleeding. He made a request to be tested for internal bleeding.
The State Penitentiary Service, in response to his request, issued a statement that Lutsenko received an explanation about the test he requested, and “offered him additional methods of examination (including instrumental ones), which he turned down.”
Lutsenko was offered on behalf of the president to appeal for pardon to be released, but refused the offer because he - like his former boss ymoshenko - maintains his innocence. Tymoshenko was jailed for seven years for overstepping her authority while signing a gas deal with Russia in 2009.
A number of European dignitaries who visited Ukraine last week said Ukraine needs to make progress in handling the cases that are considered to be political prosecutions to be able to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union in November this year.
Fuele said "tangible progress" is also needed in dealing with the shortcomings of the Oct. 28 parliamentary elections and reform of legislation in line with the road map agreed between Ukraine and EU.
This week, the government set out to catch up on some homework, and spin the rest of the issues, which are up to Yanukovych to decide.
On Feb. 11, the Cabinet sent two draft laws to parliament on protection of personal information and avoid discrimination. The Cabinet suggested to give more independence to the government body supervisor over collection and storage of personal information, and broadened the definition of discrimination.
Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara, in the meantime, said at a roundtable that Ukraine’s place in the world is prompted by its geography. It needs to be a bridge between Russia and EU, but said Europe continues to be the nation’s priority.
“I am an optimist, and I think that we have all the preconditions that the [Association] Agreement is signed this year,” he told a roundtable in Kyiv on Feb. 11.
He then moved on to say that Ukraine, by the end of this year, would love to achieve free trade with both the European Union and Customs Union with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
In response, Arnoldas Pranckevicius, adviser for external policies at the cabinet of the European Parliament president, said that Ukraine should choose its alliances wisely, as well as swiftly because Ukraine’s window of opportunity that exists this year, will most likely disappear in 2014 and 2015, the years when first EU, then Ukraine face major elections.
“If you don’t want to be talking about the same things in 2016, it’s time to sign [the Association Agreement] this year,” he said.
Kyiv Post editor Katya Gorchinskaya can be reached at gorchinskaya@kyivpost.com

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