The new status of the case, in effect, pegs the responsibility for commissioning the crime on a single culprit–a dead interior minister–and technically precludes investigators from going after a larger circle of suspected masterminds. A two-year-long trial of three suspected accomplices in Gongadze’s murder ended in 2008 with convictions, but no one has been held responsible thus far for masterminding the crime. Prosecutors have failed to investigate former and current high-ranking officials–including former President Leonid Kuchma and then-head of presidential administration and current Parliament Speaker Vladimir Litvin–who have long been suspected of being involved in Gongadze’s killing.
“This is nothing but an attempt by the authorities to close off further prosecutions in the murder of Georgy Gongadze,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator
The Kyiv Court of Appeals ruling comes on the heels of procedural violations committed by investigating authorities in the case. In a March 1 public letter to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, CPJ laid out its concerns about seeming official attempts to quickly wrap up the most significant stage of the Gongadze investigation.
Gongadze, 31, editor of the independent Internet newspaper
Persistent allegations of high-level government involvement in the murder have lingered since late November 2000, when an opposition leader released tape recordings of what he claimed were conversations between Kuchma, his chief of staff (and current parliament speaker), Vladimir Litvin, and then-Interior Minister Yuri Kravchenko. On the tapes–transcripts of which were carried by news agencies–three male voices discuss various ways of “dealing” with Gongadze. Kuchma and Litvin have repeatedly denied involvement. In 2005, Kravchenko was found dead in his apartment just hours before his scheduled questioning in the Gongadze case. Authorities said he had committed suicide but was found to have been killed by two shots in the head.