Ukraine's imprisoned Tymoshenko returns to court
, Monday 8 Aug 2011
A judge rejects a request by the former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's legal team to free her from police detention during her trial on a charge of abuse of office

Ukraine's former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko returned to court on Monday after her arrest sparked global concern, cheered noisily by boisterous supporters and declaring her trial was run by a mafia.

Judge Rodion Kireyev swiftly rejected a request by her legal team to reverse Friday's order to place her under arrest that raised alarm in the West about the rule of law in Ukraine under President Viktor Yanukovych.

The opposition leader was delivered to court in central Kiev in a prison van hours before the trial was due to open as hundreds of supporters outside shouted "Yulia!" and "Hands off Tymoshenko!".

She yelled "Glory to Ukraine!" as the judge entered the cramped courtroom and showed now sign of softening her uncompromising attitude to the court.

"I will not stand in front of you, because it would be kneeling in front of the mafia. You are not breaking me but Ukraine's young democracy," she told Kireyev.

The authorities have so far made no attempt to remove a camp of dozens of tents set up by her supporters outside the court. But units of the elite Berkut anti-riot police arrived in a half dozen buses in the early morning.

Despite spending the last three nights in prison after her arrest on Friday, Tymoshenko was as ever immaculately turned out with full make-up and her trademark hair braid wrapped around her head. She was not in handcuffs.

"Prison is prison but I am not going to complain," she told her supporters. "This is a test, but it is also the mission of my life, to help Ukraine become a true European state."

Kireyev however said the defence had presented no convincing argument that her detention conditions needs to be changed and gave Tymoshenko another warning for her "mafia" comment.

She was accompanied by two priests. Her rarely-seen husband Olexander also appeared in court to provide support. Her former interior minister Yuriy Lutsenko, also imprisoned and on trial, was taken to court in the same van.

Tymoshenko, who is on trial on charges of abuse of power over gas deals she signed with Russia in 2009, was placed under arrest for contempt of court after describing her successor as "corrupt" and mocking the judge on Twitter.

She says that she is the victim of a vendetta pursued by Yanukovych against leaders of the 2004 Orange Revolution uprising that brought a pro-Western government to power.

EU members and the United States expressed alarm after her arrest, saying they were concerned about a selective prosecution by the Yanukovych-led authorities of their foes.