Ukraine4 July 2002
Alexandrov case , one year after the journalist’s death
Reporters Without Borders, the Damocles Network and the Ukrainian Institute of Mass Information (IMI) are awaiting with much interest the decision of the Ukrainian supreme court due on 25 July in the case of murdered journalist Igor Alexandrov.
The public prosecutor appealed on 20 May against the Donetsk regional court’s acquittal three days earlier of the journalist’s suspected killer, Yuri Veredyuk. The supreme court’s attitude will show how willing the Ukrainian legal system is to fight against impunity in the case, the three organisations said.
If it did uphold the lower court’s decision, it would open the way to a new investigation of the murder and raise hopes of finding and convicting Alexandrov’s real killers, they said. If it did not, it would strengthen the belief that the trial was rigged by the Ukrainian authorities.
The three organisations welcomed the acquittal of Yuri Veredyuk, a homeless person accused of murdering Alexandrov. The case rested entirely on Veredyuk’s confession, without any concrete evidence of his involvement in the killing. Alexandrov’s family, their lawyer and the three organisations worked to expose the glaring holes in the investigation and ensure that an innocent person was not convicted to protect from punishment those really responsible for the crime.
On the first anniversary of Alexandrov’s death, Reporters Without Borders, the Damocles Network and the IMI are publishing a day-by-day account of the trial which can be read at www.rsf.org. The report was compiled by IMI members who attended the whole trial.
Alexandrov, general manager of the Slaviansk TV station TOR, was beaten over the head by thugs with baseball bats at the entrance to the station’s offices on 3 July 2001 and died in hospital from severe head injuries on 7 July.
He had already got into trouble for being a journalist. In 1998, he was fined 2,350 hryvnas (500 euros) and banned from working in journalism for five years after being sued by a member of parliament, Olexandr Leshchynsky, who he had called "the vodka king of the Donbass" industrial area of eastern Ukraine. In 2000, the case was dropped after Leshchinsky withdrew his complaint, but Alexandrov tried to get the conviction annulled and force the authorities to admit the prosecution’s errors and award him moral damages.
After a botched initial enquiry into the murder, which was accompanied by much pressure on the Alexandrov family, the general prosecutor’s office announced the name of a suspect last 15 December but did not say what the motive for the killing was. The persistence of the Alexandrov family and their lawyer, Bogdan Ferents, who had been hired by the IMI and Reporters Without Borders, enabled Alexandrov’s son to be officially recognised as a party in the case and to get the trial to start within 20 days after the end of the preliminary enquiry as Ukrainian law demands.