In Gongadze case, a milestone toward justice

New York, January 29, 2013–The conviction today of a former high-ranking Ukrainian police official in the murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze is a long-overdue step, but justice will not be fully served until all of the perpetrators are held responsible, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Gongadze, founder and editor of the critical news website Ukrainska Pravda, was the first online journalist worldwide to be murdered for his work, according to CPJ research.

The Pechersky District Court in Kiev, the capital, convicted former police Gen. Aleksei Pukach of strangling and beheading Gongadze in September 2000, and sentenced him to life in prison, local and international press reported. In March 2008, authorities convicted and sentenced to prison Pukach’s accomplices, three former police officers who had acted on his orders. No masterminds have been brought to justice.

In previous statements, Pukach implicated several other high-ranking government officials, including former president Leonid Kuchma, in orchestrating the killing, according to news agency Interfax-Ukraina and news reports. Kuchma was indicted in March 2011, but Ukraine’s Constitutional Court tossed out a key audiotape said to implicate the ex-president and then a trial court dismissed the charges later that year.

Valentina Telychenko, lawyer for Gongadze’s widow, Myroslava Gongadze, told journalists her client would appeal the ruling, in hopes that other conspirators would be identified and prosecuted.

“We welcome this conviction as a milestone on the road that will lead to the masterminds of Georgy Gongadze’s grisly murder,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “The Ukrainian authorities have been dragging their feet for 13 years. It’s time they delivered justice.”

  • For more data and analysis on the Ukraine, visit CPJ’s Ukraine page here.