After five years of prevarication and political hand-wringing the time has come for justice in the case of Georgy Gongadze says the International Federation of Journalists after a Parliamentary Commission in Kiev investigating the kidnapping and beheading of the journalist five years ago accused the parliament's speaker of being behind the assassination.
The speaker, Volodymyr Lytvyn, had "instigated the abduction" of Gongadze, says the commission, whose report has been sent on to the general prosecutor’s office.
Gongadze, an internet journalist who wrote about high-level corruption, was kidnapped and killed in 2000. “It’s time for justice in this case and an end to the political game-playing,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “Ukraine must act upon this report, ensure that all the evidence is fully tested and make sure that those responsible are brought to trial.”
However, the IFJ fears that the parliamentary decision to wind up the commission and the lack of response from the prosecutor’s office may prompt a new round of delays. “Many people are rightly worried that the public outrage over this case which helped lead to the ‘Orange Revolution’ last year, may be ignored in order to save the skin of people in high places,” said White. “It’s vital that there are no further delays.”
Public concern over the case was one of the issues which brought the President Viktor Yushchenko to office.
The parliamentary commission's report is based upon tapes in which voices resembling those of Lytvyn, former president Leonid Kuchma and other officials are heard allegedly conspiring against Gongadze. But Kuchma has repeatedly questioned the authenticity of the tapes, secretly recorded by his former bodyguard. Lytvyn has dismissed the report as "a provocation aimed at diverting attention from the real culprits" for Gongadze's death and has resisted calls for his resignation.
Nevertheless, the parliamentary report says that the "authenticity of tapes has been verified.”
A month after Yushchenko's inauguration in January this year, prosecutors indicted three former policemen over Gongadze's death. A fourth suspect is at large and being sought on an international warrant.
“There is no excuse for further delay,” said White. “We need answers as to why the powerful people behind this plot have not been held to account. Those in custody today are willing pawns; the people who gave the orders and set the process in motion must be found and brought to justice, no matter how powerful they think they are.”
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries around the world