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Ukraine15 September 2006

Killers of Georgy Gongadze still unpunished six years later

Reporters Without Borders today deplored the “judicial disgrace” of the long drawn-out investigation into the murder of opposition journalist Georgy Gongadze, whose headless body was found in a forest six years ago, and said it feared those behind the killing would never be punished.

It noted that the “Melnichenko tapes” uncovered by the press implicated the country’s top leadership in his kidnapping and death but said the investigation was now at a standstill despite new President Viktor Yushchenko’s promise to solve the case.

The Kiev central court yesterday resumed the trial of the alleged killers, two days before the sixth anniversary of Gongadze’s disappearance, but neither his mother Lessia or widow Myroslava were present. Lessia’s new lawyer, former justice minister Serhy Holovati, was also absent and the case was adjourned yet again.

Olena Prytula, editor of the online paper Ukrayinska Pravda, which Gongadze worked for, told the court that the journalist had found he was being spied on and had told prosecutor-general Mykhailo Potebenko in an open letter. He had approached the then head of the opposition Socialist Party, Oleksander Moroz, who advised him to go into hiding.

Prytula said she recognised one of the accused, Mykola Protassov, but was not sure where she had seen him. Protassov has pleaded illness many times since the last hearing two months ago, causing two adjournments and provoking fears of a third. Myroslava Gongadze’s lawyer, Valentyna Telychenko, told journalists all he could hope for with his illness was a reduced sentence.

Myroslava said in mid-August she would file a complaint against the prosecutors in charge of the case but Telychenko said no law obliged the state to compensate victims of state officials. She will not therefore get any damages even if all the killers are punished.

Parliament president Oleksander Moroz on 5 September called the murder enquiry “a farce that must be ended.”

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  In this country
2 June - Ukraine
Potential witness’s death deals severe blow to probe into journalist’s murder
15 March - Ukraine
Three former policemen convicted of Gongadze murder but instigators have yet to identified
12 February - Ukraine
Gongadze murder trial resumes in Kiev
14 September - Ukraine
Political will lacking to solve Gongadze murder seven years after his death
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