Ukraine's top human rights official said Monday she had launched an investigation into an alleged police attack on three opposition lawmakers.
"The use of force against lawmakers is a clear sign of a police state," Nina Karpachova said in a statement.
The former Soviet republic's new pro-Western leadership came to power after mass protests over election fraud last year. It has promised to improve human rights after the decade-long rule of former President Leonid Kuchma, who was accused of violating civil freedoms.
Ukraine's opposition Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (United), claimed that its lawmakers had suffered injuries in the western city of Uzhgorod while attempting to prevent police from transferring a former regional official from hospital back to jail.
Karpachova described the alleged police action as a "severe violation of law" and said she will launch an independent investigation into the case. She also demanded an urgent parliamentary session to establish what happened in the incident.
Ukrainian investigators detained Ivan Rizak, a former governor of the Western Zakarpatye region, earlier this month and charged him with abuse of power and bribery. Rizak, who suffers from a heart condition, was later transferred to a local hospital for treatment, but last Friday doctors reported he was fit enough to return to jail.
On Monday, Interior Ministry spokesman Volodymyr Mulko said it was "too early to draw any conclusions," and that top police officials and prosecutors had traveled to Uzhhorod to investigate. He also said the policemen reportedly involved in the case had been temporarily suspended from duty.
Rizak is a staunch backer of former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who lost last year's bitterly contested presidential vote to then-opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko.
Authorities loyal to Yushchenko recently arrested several former officials on charges ranging from abuse of power to conspiring to commit murder.
Yanukovych and other opposition politicians have accused Yushchenko's government of persecuting its political opponents, but the new authorities say they are just fighting corruption that flourished under the former Kuchma regime.
NATASHA LISOVA, Associated Press Writer
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