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Resolution calls for further action to prosecute former officials who may have been behind journalist Giorgiy Gongadze's killing

(IPI/IFEX) - The following is a 29 January 2009 IPI press release:

IPI Applauds Resolution on Ukrainian Journalist's Murder, Urges Action on Similar Crimes

VIENNA, Austria, 29 January 2009 - IPI today welcomed a Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) resolution urging Ukraine to do more to capture those behind the gruesome 2000 killing of journalist Giorgiy Gongadze.

The resolution, approved on 27 January, applauded the recent convictions of three former police officers, but expressed its deep concern at the lack of progress in prosecuting former officials who may have been behind the killing, including a fugitive Interior Ministry general.

"We support strong stance on the murder of Gongadze," said IPI Director David Dadge. "Eight years ago IPI helped spearhead an analysis of recordings implicating high-ranking officials in this case, and the evidence suggests now as it did then that the masterminds of this crime are escaping justice."

Gongadze, an outspoken journalist who was highly critical of then-President Leonid Kuchma, disappeared on 16 September 2000. His headless body was found six weeks later buried in woods just outside the central town of Tarashcha.

Gongadze reported being harassed and followed by the police for several months before his murder, and had allegedly received death threats. He was editor of the Pravda Ukrayiny Internet newspaper.

Sometime after the disappearance, tape recordings were released by a former presidential body guard containing what he said was Kuchma's voice telling his top aides to "get rid of" Gongadze. Kuchma has denied any involvement in the murder. IPI and the Washington-based rights group Freedom House hired technical experts to review the tapes and found that the criminal acts suggested in the recordings warranted further investigation by the Ukrainian authorities.

In addition, IPI reported in 2000 that the investigation into Gongadze's disappearance was marred by either incompetence or reticence on the part of the authorities. One unlikely explanation after the other was put forward for the journalist?s disappearance.

Three former police officers were finally convicted of murdering Gongadze in March 2008.

This week's PACE resolution calls on the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office to "use all possible avenues of investigation to identify those who instigated and organised the murder of Giorgiy Gongadze," and to investigate why a high-level suspect in the case, former Interior Ministry General Oleksiy Pukach, was released from police custody in 2003.

"We hope that the governments of countries such as Russia and Turkey - where trials and investigations into the killings of journalists are currently taking place - take heed of PACE's message that all those involved in such murders must be held responsible, regardless of their position in society," said Dadge.

In Moscow, the trial into the killing of Novaya Gazeta journalist Anna Politkovskaya is under way, although the shooter has not been apprehended. Many of Politkovskaya's colleagues believe she was a target of a contract killing, and claims have been made that an unnamed Russian politician ordered the assassination.

In Turkey, the trial into the murder of Agos editor-in-chief Hrant Dink continues, although many believe that those who masterminded his killing remain at large.

Turkey has previously failed to bring the killers of Cumhuriyet columnist Ahmet Taner Kislali to justice in a decade-old case. As highlighted by the IPI Justice Denied Campaign, Kislali's killer, Necdet Yuksel, gave information detailing the involvement of Iranian diplomats in the planning of the assassination. Despite this, Yuksel remains the only person convicted.

Updates the Gongadze case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/94878

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