MANHATTAN (CN) – The jailed former prime minister of the Ukraine cannot use New York courts to fight the entities that allegedly backed her corruption trial, a federal judge ruled.
Yulia Tymoshenko, an economist, became wealthy in the natural gas industry before her political aspirations made her a symbol of the Ukraine’s the so-called Orange Revolution.
Her successor, Viktor Yushchenko, had her prosecuted for a gas deal she signed in 2009, radically transforming the Ukraine’s economy by having the state energy company buy gas directly from Russia’s monopoly, Naftogaz, rather than through the Swiss broker, RosUkrEnergo, or RUE.
Ukrainian prosecutors called the deal an abuse of power.
Tymoshenko described her charges as political payback for canceling the contract of RUE’s owner, Dmytro Firtash, a billionaire supporter of Yushenko.
A U.S. State Department spokesman slammed the trial as a “politically motivated prosecution” after Tymoshenko was convicted, in May 2011.
One month before the verdict, Tymoshenko accused RUE, Firtash, and a half-dozen U.S.-based companies and individuals of having backed her alleged persecution. She filed a federal class action in New York on behalf of herself and dozens of alleged political prisoners with claims under the Torture Victims Protection Act, the Alien Torts Statute and federal anti-racketeering law.
Throughout her incarceration, Tymoshenko has alleged abusive prison conditions in the European Court of Human Rights. She is currently hospitalized.
Last week, London’s liberal tabloid, The Independent, reported that Ukrainian prosecutors plan to charge her with murder when she recovers, to the dismay of Western diplomats.
Tymoshenko received more bad news as a federal judge in Manhattan ruled Tuesday that the bulk of her claims do not belong in the United States.
The Alien Tort Statute, one of the oldest and most controversial laws in U.S. jurisprudence, guarantees a foreign litigants access to district courts to file civil claims for conduct “committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty.”
Tymoshenko’s suit does not fit this description because she had a public trial, according to the ruling.
“Plaintiffs do not complain that they were not afforded process, but rather that the process afforded violates Ukrainian law because it rests on factual inaccuracies and is legally insufficient,” U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood wrote. (Emphasis in original)
Later, the 24-page opinion states: “The ATS is not a vehicle for foreign individuals to challenge foreign rulings with which they disagree.”
The U.S. corporate defendants could not be credibly found to have aided and abetted fraud by doing business with RUE, the judge added.
“The scheme alleged here – where both the victims and victimizers are foreign and the alleged perpetrators committed no wrongdoing in the United States, but merely invested alleged funds in U.S.-based corporations – is not sufficient to state a claim for a domestic RICO violation,” she wrote.
A day later, Judge Wood also dismissed the allegations against RUE on jurisdictional grounds.
“Although the United States does have an interest in stopping human rights abuses, this interest is minimal where, as here, both parties are foreign nationals litigating a dispute that took place entirely in the Ukraine,” that Wednesday order states.
Woods gave Tymoshenko and her co-plaintiffs another opportunity to revise their complaint to satisfy jurisdiction.
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