Some of the most powerful businessmen in Ukraine have turned to the top human rights court in Europe in a battle with their new government over the privatization of the country's largest steelworks, a lawyer representing the businessmen said Tuesday.
The lawyer, Serhiy Vlasenko, said that he had lodged a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights to challenge a ruling in a Kiev court on Feb. 17 that suspended a privatization of the Kryvorizhstal mill that was begun last year.
The case has become one of the most disputed of Ukraine's post-Soviet privatizations, as the government of President Viktor Yushchenko moves to undo deals that put state property in the hands of people close to the previous government.
The mill was acquired by Investment-Metallurgical Union, a consortium largely owned by Viktor Pinchuk, the son-in-law of former President Leonid Kuchma, and Rinat Akhmetov, a wealthy businessman.
Courts had approved the sale of the mill for around $800 million last year, despite reportedly higher offers by bidders from the United States and Russia.
Yushchenko has called the sale a theft and said his government would return the mill to the state. A group of lawmakers backing Yushchenko challenged the sale in a Kiev court, which halted the privatization.
Vlasenko said that the ruling violated his clients' right to a fair hearing as guaranteed by European human rights laws.
"The law was breached so many times and so flagrantly during the opening of the review of the privatization that now we have no choice but to defend our rights in a totally unbiased manner by appealing to the European court," he said.
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