Monday, January 31, 2011

Ukrainian Court Rules Out Probe Of Officials In Journalist's Death

KIEV, Ukraine -- A Ukrainian court on Monday effectively blocked any attempt to investigate allegations that top political figures were behind the murder in 2000 of journalist Georgy Gongadze.

Murdered journalist Georgy Gongadze

The Kiev court ruled that the investigation concluded by prosecutors was complete and that there were insufficient grounds to pursue allegations linking his death to former president Leonid Kuchma and former interior minister Yury Kravchenko.

Four police officers, including former police colonel Aleksy Pukach, were charged in the killing of Gongaze, who established Ukrainska Pravda, Ukraine's most popular news website.

Pukach, who is suspected of suffocating and beheading the journalist, is awaiting trial; the three others, identified as his accomplices, were convicted in 2008 and sentenced to prison terms ranging from 12 to 13 years.

It still remains unclear whether Pukach was acting on his own or whether he received orders from someone else to carry out the murder.

Recordings made public after Gongadze's murder purportedly capture former president Leonid Kuchma ordering former interior minister Yury Kravchenko 'to take out Gongadze.'

Kuchma has consistently denied any involvement in Gongadze's killing. Kravchenko committed suicide in 2005 just before he was scheduled to speak to prosecutors about the murder case.

He left a note saying he had 'become a victim of Kuchma's political intrigues.'

The Monday court decision confirms a September ruling by a lower court. Gongadze's wife, Miroslava, challenged the lower court decision.

Georgy Gongadze's death galvanized the political opposition in Ukraine and was a major issue in Ukraine's 2004 presidential election.

The Kuchma-backed candidate - Viktor Yanukovych - was defeated in that race, though he won in his second bid in 2010.

Source: DPA

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