Ukraine “Must Face Truth About Gongadze” Says IFJ As Murder Mystery Begins to Unravel

The Government of the Ukraine “must face the truth and take responsibility” over the brutal killing of opposition journalist Georgiy Gongadze says the International Federation of Journalists as new developments put fresh pressure on President Leonid Kuchma and point to a denial of justice in the case.

“The time is right to clear the air,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “We need to know the truth, pure and simple. Only a fresh investigation that is independent, transparent and stripped of self-interest and political intrigue will deliver justice.”

The death in custody of a key witness, the announcement of a confession by a convicted murderer and a call from Parliamentarians in the Ukraine for the impeachment of President Kuchma all indicate that the mystery surrounding the 2000 assassination of Internet journalist Gongadze is at last unraveling says the IFJ.

“After years of willful political neglect, incompetent investigation and official bungling the truth is beginning to emerge and President Kuchma and his government must face up to their responsibility,” said White.

Yesterday the prosecutor-general's office in Kiev announced that a man previously prosecuted for murder had confessed to the killing of Gongdaze, an investigative reporter and a sharp critic of corruption in government circles. His decapitated body was found in woods outside Kiev in November 2002. Although President Kuchma has always denied being involved, he has been linked to the murder through controversial taped evidence.

The news of the confession came as prosecutors announced an investigation into the death in police custody of a key witness who had alleged that Mr Kuchma was implicated in the murder of Gongadze. Former policeman Ihor Honcharov died last August of spinal injuries. Criminal proceedings have been opened against police in the matter, said the prosecutor's office.

And a special parliamentary committee, mainly consisting of Kuchma’s political opponents, which has been examining events around the killing, including secret tape recordings, says Mr Kuchma should be impeached and subject to criminal proceedings. The IFJ welcomed the work of the committee but warned against politicians using the conclusions as a “football for political game-playing.” White said: “This case is about justice for Georgy Gongadze not securing the defeat of Leonid Kuchma.”

Last month the IFJ, which is supporting an international review of how the Gongadze case has been handled, confronted Ukraine Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, a favourite to replace Kuchma in national elections later this year, during a visit to Brussels with a “catalogue of concerns” over a wide range of problems facing journalists in the Ukraine and asked for a new and independent inquiry into the Gongadze case.