Ukraine's jailed Tymoshenko offered ticket abroad but no pardon

Reuters

* Draft law would force ex-PM to return and complete prisonterm

* Tymoshenko and EU press for her to be pardoned

* Landmark EU-Ukraine deal hinges on her case

By Richard Balmforth

KIEV, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Jailed opposition leader YuliaTymoshenko would have to return to Ukraine to complete herprison sentence after receiving any medical treatment abroad,according to the text of a draft law made public on Friday.

Parliament is scheduled to debate the draft next week in anew twist in the case of Tymoshenko, whose imprisonment isthreatening the signing of a landmark agreement between Ukraineand the European Union next month.

Tymoshenko was jailed for seven years in 2011 for abuse ofoffice after a trial which Western governments say waspolitically motivated and smacked of 'selective justice'.

European envoys, shuttling between Brussels and Kiev, haveasked President Viktor Yanukovich to grant a pardon to hisarch-rival to allow her to travel as a free person to Germany tobe treated for spinal problems.

This formula, if accepted, is widely seen as sufficient toensure that the EU would sign the deal on association and freetrade at a summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Nov. 28. Forex-Soviet Ukraine, it would mark a historic shift towards theWest and away from Russia.

Yanukovich, in a surprise move, said on Thursday he wasready to sign a law to allow her to go abroad for treatment, ifa draft was adopted by parliament. But he did not mentiongranting her a pardon.

In comments carried on his website, he said: "Naturally, ifparliament adopts this law, I will sign it."

"TREATMENT IS NOT A PARDON"

Tymoshenko, 52, says her trial was a personal vendetta byYanukovich. She has said she is ready to go to Berlin fortreatment, but her family says she wants to benefit from apardon, as requested by the EU envoys, to be able subsequentlyto return to political life.

A text of the draft to go before parliament next week saidit would be up to a Ukrainian court to decide whether Tymoshenkowas ill enough to qualify for treatment abroad, and the courtwould also define the length of time allotted for treatment.

"On the expiry of the term, defined by the court fortreatment abroad, the convicted person would return to Ukraineto continue serving the punishment," it said.

Parliament speaker Volodymyr Rybak said the proposed draftwould be discussed next week in a full session of the assembly."This law must be such that convicted people do not avoidpunishment because treatment is not a pardon," he said,according to the parliament's website.

A first reaction from the Tymoshenko camp suggested the newdevelopment might not be acceptable to her.

Her lawyer, Serhiy Vlasenko, said the draft law ran counterto the EU's criteria for democratic progress, which the bloc hassaid it wants Ukraine to meet for the Vilnius summit.

"The criteria require an end to selective justice, not asuspended sentence," Vlasenko said.

Pro-Yanukovich deputies dominate in parliament and the draftlaw seemed likely to get strong support from them, though thepolitical opposition sees no need for such a law.

EU MISSION

The two EU envoys, Irish politician Pat Cox and formerPolish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, will discuss the newproposal with both sides when they visit Kiev next week.

"Cox and Kwasniewski will resume their efforts to resolvethe Tymoshenko case. They will be in Kiev on Monday and Tuesdayfor further talks," a European Parliament official dealing withthe affair said in Brussels.

Tymoshenko has been receiving treatment for her backproblems from German doctors under prison guard in a hospital inthe northern city of Kharkiv.

Up to now, her family and supporters have been talking interms of her going to Berlin's Charite clinic for treatment.

She said on Oct. 4 that, while she was ready to go toGermany for the sake of Ukraine, she would not seek politicalasylum there and would continue to fight "dictatorship" in hercountry.

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