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Ukraine19 May 2005

Two police officers sentenced for forgery in Alexandrov murder case

The Donetsk regional court on 16 May found two former police officers, Oleh Tambovtsev and Yevhen Drozdov, guilty of forgery in connection with the investigation into the murder of journalist Igor Alexandrov, who was killed on 7 July 2001. They were sentenced respectively to six and six and a half years in prison.

Separately, the regional appeal court in Luhansk on 17 May adjourned the cases of Oleksandr and Dmytro Rybak, both accused of having ordered Alexandrov‚s murder. The case was postponed until 6 June, since the defendants‚ lawyer has resigned from the case.

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13 May 2005

Reporters Without Borders calls for punishment of real killers of Igor Alexandrov

Reporters Without Borders called today on the Ukrainian authorities to provide "clear proof" of the guilt of the suspected hitmen and masterminds in the 2001 murder of TV journalist Igor Alexandrov and said it hoped a new trial of four men in the case starting on 16 May would not be "another farce" pinning responsibility on "conveniently-found suspects."

It said "very serious mistakes and legal errors" had accumulated during the four-year official investigation into the killing. "The full truth must be established in this terrible death of an investigative journalist," it added. The appeals court in Luhansk will hear the case.

Thugs beat Alexandrov with baseball bats outside the offices in Slavinsk of the TV station TOR, of which he was director-general, on 3 July 2001 and he died of his injuries four days later. Volodymyr Tymoshenko, head of the anti-crime and anti-corruption department of the country’s security services, said he was killed because of his reports on corruption and organised crime in the eastern region of Donetsk.

The suspected brains behind the murder are businessman Oleksandr Rybak and his younger brother Dmytro, both of them members of the "17th Zone" gang. They will be tried with the alleged hitmen, Oleksandr Onyshko and Ruslan Tursunov, who were allegedly paid $4,000.

Over the past four years, the investigation has made countless legal errors and hearings have been constantly postponed.

A homeless man, Yuri Verediuk, was arrested within days of the murder after a hasty enquiry, found guilty and then cleared on 17 May 2002 by the Donetsk appeals court in Slaviansk, which ruled that his so-called confessions were contradictory and had been obtained under pressure. He died of a supposed heart attack on 19 July 2002.

Prosecutor-general Sviatoslav Piskun announced on 21 September 2003 that the real killers had now been arrested. His office said on 6 July 2004 it was investigating his predecessor Gennady Vassiliev, who had been in charge of the case, for "negligence" and ordering evidence to be forged.

Donetsk regional court judge Volodymyr Hrashev charged two former policemen, Oleh Tambovtsev and Yevhen Drozdov, on 1 March this year with forging evidence to enable prosecution of Verediuk.

On 18 April, Ukrainian secret services arrested two policemen suspected of poisoning Verediuk. The pair - Lt. Col. Albert Vinnyshuk and Major Serhiy Shlomin - worked for the interior ministry in the Donetsk region. They were charged with premeditated murder (article 115 of the criminal code) and imprisoned on 22 April in Donetsk.

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