European judges have ruled that Ukraine ' s pre - trial detention of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was unlawful.

" The court considered that the detention had been arbitrary and unlawful during the entire period, " the European Court of Human Rights(ECHR) ruled on Tuesday. Tymoshenko also accused authorities of physically mistreating her, but that complaint was dismissed by the Strasbourg - based court. The European Union has said that it is considering a trade and association agreement with Ukraine and has plainly said it wanted Kiev to free Tymoshenko. In October 2011, a Ukrainian court sentenced Tymoshenko, who is the country’s leading opposition figure, to seven years in prison and banned her from political activities for three years after her release after convicting her on several charges, including abuse of power in signing a gas deal with Russia in 2009. Tymoshenko has denied the allegations, saying the charges against her are politically motivated and that Ukraine has returned to the dark days of Stalinism. In a statement from jail on Tuesday, she welcomed the ECHR ruling.

" I am happy all the dirt and black lies the authorities have been drowning me in over the past years have been removed, " the 52 - year - old opposition leader stated, adding that the court had " de facto " recognized her as a political prisoner.

" After the decision of the European court I am already morally free. Free despite all their bars, cells, walls, fences and tinted windows, " she said. Meanwhile, Tymoshenko’s lawyer Sergiy Vlasenko said, " I urge[Ukrainian] President[Viktor] Yanukovich not to appeal this decision and to instead follow this ruling. The only thing left to do now is to free Mrs. Tymoshenko immediately. " " The president is afraid of Mrs. Tymoshenko because she is the only politician capable of defeating him in any election. That ' s why she is in prison, " he said. The European Union welcomed the ruling and called on Kiev " to reconsider thoroughly the situation of Tymoshenko … who remains detained after a trial that did not respect fair, transparent and independent legal proceedings. "