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Ukraine31 October 2003

Reporters Without Borders concerned about dismissal of prosecutor in Gongadze case

Reporters Without Borders expressed concern today about the sacking of Ukrainian prosecutor-general Svyatoslav Piskun and whether it was linked to the probe into the murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze. His dismissal coincided with the arrest on 24 October of a former interior ministry official and came in the wake of numerous errors and failures that have dogged the murder enquiry for more than three years.

"We ask you to assure us that Piskun’s departure is not related to the Gongadze case and to keep us informed of all developments in the investigation, especially the consequences of the arrest of former interior ministry secret police chief Oleksy Pukach," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma.

"We also ask you to let us know as quickly as possible who will now be in charge of the Gongadze case. The lack of results in the enquiry is very worrying to us and this new turn of events can only delay further the quest for the truth," he said.

The press freedom organisation also wrote to Piskun asking that if he thought his dismissal was linked, even partly, to the Gongadze case, that he should make public the evidence he had managed to collect so far that might help solve the case.

Piskun was sacked by President Kuchma on 29 October, officially at the request of a government anti-corruption commission, for alleged abuse of authority and serious legal offences. He had been in charge of the Gongadze case since his appointment in July last year to succeed Mikhailo Potebenko, who was also sacked.

Gongadze vanished on 16 September 2000 and his headless and mutilated body was found on 2 November that year. A Reporters Without Borders fact-finding mission in January 2001 noted many very serious errors in the investigation. Potebenko, elected prosecutor-general by parliament in March 2001, tried to protect government officials from accusations of involvement in the killing.

Gongadze’s widow Myroslava and his mother Lessia were systematically excluded from the investigation and were not allowed to be civil parties in the case until late January 2001. Myroslava Gongadze filed a complaint against the Ukrainian government before the European Court of Human Rights on 16 September 2002.




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