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Apr 26, 2012, 05.12 PM IST
EU-UKRAINE:EU demands visit to jailed Tymoshenko in Ukraine
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union has asked Ukrainian authorities to let its ambassador visit jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko following allegations she was beaten by prison guards, the EU's foreign policy chief said on Thursday.
Tymoshenko has been on hunger strike since last Friday, when she said she was punched in the stomach and dragged from her bed during a forced move to a hospital - an accusation jail authorities deny. Prison officials warned her on Wednesday that she could be force-fed.
The 51-year-old was jailed last October for seven years for abusing her power as prime minister in a case described by many in Europe as politically motivated.
Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, said Ukraine had an obligation "to examine promptly and impartially any complaints of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment".
Her office said in a statement "The High Representative asks the Ukrainian authorities to allow the EU ambassador, accompanied by independent medical specialists, to visit Ms Tymoshenko in prison."
The request came a day after Ukraine's top human rights official called for a criminal investigation into Tymoshenko's claims and said the alleged treatment could amount to torture.
Tymoshenko's conviction strained the relationship between Ukraine and the European Union and the alleged prison treatment could further worsen relations.
German President Joachim Gauck late on Wednesday cancelled a planned visit to Ukraine next month amid growing concern over the health and treatment of Tymoshenko.
The European Union agreed in March the details of a deal with Ukraine to establish greater political and economic integration, including a free trade agreement - but the deal will be signed only if the political climate in Kiev becomes more "European".
A senior EU official said at the time the Tymoshenko case was "the tip of the iceberg", and that Ukraine would need to make its judicial process in general more impartial.
If the EU ambassador is denied access to Tymoshenko, or finds evidence of mistreatment during a visit, the signing of the agreement is even less likely.
The EU commissioner in charge of enlargement, Stefan Fule, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday that the case was a "visible and painful stain on Ukraine".
Germany has offered to provide medical treatment for Tymoshenko. She has been suffering from back pain for months and has trouble walking, her lawyers and family say.
Tymoshenko, the main political rival of President Viktor Yanukovich, was jailed after a court ruled she exceeded her powers as prime minister when forcing through a 2009 gas deal with Russia.
She led the 2004 Orange Revolution which doomed Yanukovich's first bid for the presidency. She has since served twice as prime minister but lost the 2010 presidential vote to Yanukovich in a close run-off.
(Reporting By Sebastian Moffett; Editing by Pravin Char)
Jun 20 2013, 11:06
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Jun 20 2013, 11:06
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