Germany captain tackles Ukraine on human rights
BERLIN, May 5, 2012 (AFP) - Germany captain Philipp Lahm has slammed Euro 2012 co-hosts Ukraine for their government's treatment of jailed ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
Tymoshenko was jailed for seven years last October on charges of abuse of power and last month went on hunger strike after claiming she had been beaten by prison guards.
Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych is coming under increasing political pressure over the imprisonment of the former opposition leader, with governments of EU countries threatening to boycott the tournament.
Lahm says the political situation there is of huge concern.
"I do not find my views of democratic fundamental rights, human rights, personal freedom or freedom of the press to be found in the present political situation in the Ukraine," Lahm told German news magazine Der Spiegel.
"When I see how the regime is treating Yulia Tymoshenko, it has nothing to do with my image of democracy."
Lahm called on Michel Platini, the president of European football's governing body UEFA, to also put pressure on the government in the Ukraine, who will co-host the European Championships from June 8-July 1.
"I think he should take a stand and I am curious to see what he has to say," said Lahm.
With political pressure growing on the Ukraine, Lahm says the championships are in danger of being over-shadowed by Tymoshenko's on-going detention.
"Football has become too important to remain untouched by this," he said.
"When I read the first reports about Tymoshenko's failing health, I was wary of which way that was going to go."
Germany, among the Euro 2012 title favourites, will play all three of their opening games in the Ukraine.
Both their Group B games against Portugal on June 9 and June 13 against the Netherlands will be held in Kharkov, where Tymoshenko is being held.
Both Germany and Russia have offered to treat Tymoshenko, but Yanukovych has so far shown no sign of wanting to make concessions, saying he cannot interfere in the legal process.