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By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA (Reuters) - A United Nations human rights watchdog on Thursday deplored "politically motivated" prosecutions in Ukraine and Tajikistan and told the two former Soviet republics to make sure judges were impartial.
It cited the case of former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, jailed for seven years in October 2011 for abuse of office, and of Zaid Saidov, a Tajik politician who was setting up an opposition political party before his arrest in May.
In Ukraine, despite steps to reform the judiciary, judges "still remain vulnerable to outside pressure", the U.N. Human Rights Committee's 18 independent experts said in their findings.
"The Committee also expresses particular concern about allegations of politically-motivated prosecutions of elected politicians, such as former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, for excess of authority or official power," they added.
The European Union says her prosecution smacks of "selective justice" and Western governments say her continuing confinement threatens the signing of agreements on political association and free trade with the 28-member bloc in November.
The U.N. body also urged Kiev to combat hate speech and racist attacks against minorities, especially Roma, Jehovah's Witnesses and Crimean Tatars.
Ukrainian authorities should fight social stigmatization of homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals, and reconsider two draft laws on the "propaganda of homosexuality", it said.
Ukraine's parliament last year shelved the second reading of a bill that would have criminalized the "promotion of homosexuality".
In Tajikistan, an impoverished Central Asian nation where President Imomali Rakhmon has ruled for 20 years, the committee cited "reports of politically-motivated harassment of opposition political leaders with a view to deterring them from participating in future elections.
"In this regard, it is particularly concerned at reports of arbitrary detention of Mr. Zayd Saidov, the head of a new political party called 'New Tajikistan', and the secrecy surrounding his case before the court," it said.
The committee examines compliance with a landmark treaty guaranteeing fundamental civil and political rights, ratified by 167 countries.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Andrew Heavens)