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Ukraine15 March 2008

Three former policemen convicted of Gongadze murder but instigators have yet to identified

Ending a trial begun in January 2006, a Kiev court today found three former police officers - Mykola Protasov, Oleksandr Popovich and Valeri Kostenko - guilty of carrying out the 2000 murder of investigative journalist Georgiy Gongadze. As requested by prosecutors, Protasov was sentenced to 13 years in prison. The other two were sentenced to 12 years.

Reporters Without Borders hails this outcome, but regrets that those who gave the others for Gongadze’s murder still have not been identified.

“We are obviously pleased with this verdict,” the press freedom organisation said. “But justice has not yet been fully rendered in the Gongadze case, which shook the entire nation. The instigators of this murder have still to be identified and punished. The conviction of the three people who carried it out should not be taken to mean the investigation is over.”

Ukraine’s deputy prosecutor-general Mykola Holomsha, said at the start of the month that he was waiting for the results of the expert analysis of the recordings made by former President Leonid Kuchma’s bodyguard, Mykola Melnychenko. As soon as they are known, the court could formally charge “certain persons” with organising Gongadze’s murder, he said.

The editor of the online newspaper Ukrainskaya Pravda, which he created in April 2000, Gongadze often wrote about cases of alleged corruption involving members of the Kuchma government. He was also an active campaigner for more press freedom in Ukraine. He was 31 years old when he was kidnapped on 16 September 2000. A headless body found near Kiev six weeks later was identified as his.

  In this country
2 June - Ukraine
Potential witness’s death deals severe blow to probe into journalist’s murder
12 February - Ukraine
Gongadze murder trial resumes in Kiev
14 September - Ukraine
Political will lacking to solve Gongadze murder seven years after his death
27 August - Ukraine
Bomb hoax against Russian-language daily, photographer attacked
6 October - Ukraine
Witnesses give contradictory views about motives for Gongadze murder

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