This is a Monday, July 11, 2011 file photo of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko during a trial hearing at the Pecherskiy District Court in Kiev. The judge in the abuse-of-office trial of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko gave strong indication she would be found guilty Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011 saying in his summary that she caused major losses to the national gas company.
KIEV: A Ukrainian court has found former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko guilty of abuse of office and sentenced her to seven years in prison in a case widely condemned in the West as politically motivated.
She was found guilty Tuesday of violating legal procedures during the signing of a natural gas import contract with Russia in 2009.
Tymoshenko dismisses the trial as a government attempt to bar her from upcoming elections and as persecution by her arch-foe President Viltor Yanukovych.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — The judge in the abuse-of-office trial of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko gave a strong indication she would be found guilty Tuesday, saying she used her power "for criminal ends."
Under Ukrainian court procedures, the judge reads a a lengthy summary of the case, with the verdict and possible sentence announced at the end. In the course of the reading, Judge Rodion Kireyev said Tymoshenko inflicted damages of some 1.5 billion hryvna ($190 million) on the national gas company by signing an import contract with Russia in 2009.
Tymoshenko, now the country's top opposition leader, used her power as prime minister "for criminal ends and, acting consciously, committed actions which clearly exceeded the limits of rights and powers," Kireyev said.
Prosecutors say Tymoshenko was not authorized to order the signing of a natural gas contract with Russia and say the price agreed for the transaction was too high, causing losses to the state budget. They have asked the court to fine Tymoshenko an equivalent of $190,000 (euro140,000) for those alleged damages and for a sentence of seven years in prison.
Tymoshenko has already been jailed for more than two months during the trial for contempt of court.
The United States and the European Union have condemned the trial as politically motivated, and Tymoshenko has dismissed the trial as persecution ordered by her longtime foe, President Viktor Yanukovych, to bar her from politics. The case has galvanized her supporters, who have regularly held rowdy protests both inside and outside the courthouse.
On Tuesday, the area outside the court building was guarded by helmeted riot police, and many Tymoshenko supporters had gathered in the area. They blocked traffic on Kreshchatik Avenue, which runs through the heart of the capital.
Tymoshenko hotly contested the charges and said the the judge did not give her enough time to prepare her final remarks.
"This is pure falsification," Tymoshenko said, clad in a bright white jacket and black skirt, her blond braid wrapped around her head. "This lynching ... is continuing to serve the liquidation of opposition in our country."
After reading more than two hours, Kireyev began summarizing the defense arguments in the case.
Tymoshenko was the driving force behind the 2004 Orange Revolution, which overturned Yanukovych's fraud-tainted election victory then. Yanukovych staged a comeback, narrowly defeating Tymoshenko in a 2010 presidential vote amid public disenchantment with economic hardships and constant bickering among those who had ousted Yanukovych.
Tymoshenko says that as a prime minister she did not need any special permission to order the signing of the deal which helped end a bitter pricing dispute between Moscow and Kiev, which had led to energy supply shortages across Europe.
The European Union has warned in the past that jailing Tymoshenko may cost Ukraine its integration with the 27-nation bloc.