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IFJ demands withdrawal of award to judge who closed case against prime suspect in Gongadze murder

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an 18 December 2007 IFJ media release:

IFJ Demands Withdrawal of Award to Judge Who Closed Case against Prime Suspect in Gongadze Murder

In a letter to Ukraine President Yushenko, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the awarding last week of the title "Lawyer of Honour of Ukraine" to Maria Prindiuk.

In April 2004 Judge Prindiuk closed the case against General Olexiy Pukach for destroying documents related to the case of Gyorgy Gongadze, the journalist murdered in September 2000. This action helped General Pukach, the prime suspect in Gongadze's murder, to evade justice.

"This award represents a signal of support by your administration for officials who, whether deliberately or by their gross negligence, have allowed the organisers of Gongadze's murder to go unpunished," wrote Aidan White. "In this respect your administration is affording impunity to those organisers of the crime."

The Presidential administration announced the award on 14 December. The award to Judge Prindiuk - like the medal awarded to former general prosecutor Mikhail Potebenko, who failed to take action when Gongadze approached him for help, and then woefully failed to investigate his murder - amounts to a reward for obstructing justice in this vital case.

The letter was supported by Gongadze's widow, Myroslava Gongadze, the Institute of Mass Information, the Independent Media Trade Union of Ukraine and the National Union of Journalists of the UK and Ireland.

The IFJ urges President Yushenko to revoke the title conferred upon Judge Prindiuk and to hold to account all those who have obstructed the successful investigation of the Gongadze case.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide.

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