The daughter of Ukraine's jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko said her mother was being abused in prison, as she pleaded with lawmakers to pressure Kiev to release her.
Tymoshenko has been "illegally imprisoned, maltreated and humiliated for six months" in prison, and was being subject to "sleep deprivation and intimidation to try and break her," Yevgeniya Carr told lawmakers at a hearing of the European Affairs subcommittee of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
Yulia Tymoshenko is serving a seven-year jail sentence after a court convicted her of abuse of power, which she claimed was a political prosecution by her rival Viktor Yanukovych, who is now the president.
Her daughter, in an impassioned address to the lawmakers, urged the US government to pressure Yanukovych to free the former leader.
Jailed in August prior to her October trial, Tymoshenko has claimed that her health has deteriorated. Her daughter said Wednesday her mother "could have died" recently after she fell unconscious in her cell due to a "mysterious loss of blood pressure."
The former prime minister's cellmate attempted to revive her for twenty minutes, before a doctor came, she said.
Her case has sent Ukraine's relationship with the European Union to a new low, and a top US lawmaker warned Wednesday that relations with the West were at risk over the imprisonment.
"It would be difficult if not impossible for Ukraine to deepen relations with the West while Ms Tymoshenko remains behind bars," said US Senator Jeanne Shaheen at the hearing.
Under Yanukovych's regime, prison authorities are using modern techniques to achieve "medieval results," the 31-year-old daughter told lawmakers, saying the current Ukrainian leader is trying to make Tymoshenko "write a letter publicly asking forgiveness and admitting her 'sins' for him to pardon her."
This "will never happen," she said, insisting her mother did not commit any crime.
Yevgeniya Carr has visited Berlin, Copenhagen, Paris and Strasbourg in the last month in an attempt to persuade Western governments to take a tougher stance on her mother's imprisonment and put pressure on Ukrainian authorities.
"Pressure will only grow and then there will be more hope in her release," she told AFP before leaving for Washington this week, adding that only Yanukovych can free Tymoshenko and other former officials that have been convicted, by issuing a pardon.