Wednesday 30 January 2013

Ex-police chief convicted of murdering Gongadze

A Ukrainian court has convicted a former police chief of murdering internet journalist Georgy Gongadze (top)  in 2000, a case which has been the focus of a campaign by press freedom groups for years.

BBC News reports that the  court in Kiev found that Olexiy Pukach had killed the journalist, then cut off his head. It sentenced Pukach to life imprisonment.

Pukach confessed but said he had acted on the orders of the late Interior Minister, Yuri Kravchenko.

The murder sparked protests against the president at the time, Leonid Kuchma. An attempt to prosecute Kuchma for ordering the killing collapsed in December 2011 when a judge ruled that secret audio recordings which apparently incriminated him could not be used as evidence, as they had been obtained through "illegal means". 

Kuchma has always denied involvement in the journalist's murder.

A few months before his death, Georgy Gongadze founded the news website Ukrainskaya Pravda, which was critical of the Kuchma presidency.

While serving as head of the Ukrainian interior ministry's external surveillance service, Pukach tracked Gongadze, the court found. Pukach testified that he had accidentally strangled the journalist with a belt while interrogating him about possible links to foreign states in September 2000.

Brings closure neither to the Gongadze family, nor to Ukraine. Too many questions remain unanswered. In his final remarks in the courtroom, Gen Pukach claimed Leonid Kuchma should have also been in the dock. Yet his name did not feature in the trial."

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