Gongadze Murder: Court revokes criminal charges against Kuchma
The Pechersky District Court in Kyiv has ruled that the criminal proceedings initiated against former President Kuchma over alleged involvement in the murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze were unfounded.
The ruling passed on Wednesday thus allows the appeal lodged by Kuchma’s lawyers. The judgement states that the court has not found grounds indicating that Kuchma was implicated in a serious crime. It goes on to say that according to legislation, a criminal prosecution can only be started where there are objective facts indicating elements of a crime in the person’s action. However from the material provided to the court, it transpires that the former Speaker of Parliament Oleksandr Moroz did not officially register a report with the law enforcement bodies about the crime allegedly committed by Leonid Kuchma, nor was a report by former Presidential guard Mykola Melnychenko and other individuals registered in the proper manner.
The court concluded that effectively the only grounds for the decision by First Deputy Prosecutor General Rinat Kuzmin to initiate criminal proceedings were the tapes made by Mykola Melnychenko.
The court then goes on to cite the Constitutional Court judgement from October this year which was widely reported at the time as effectively serving to quash the case against Kuchma. The Court was responding to a request from the Security Service to interpret Article 82.3 of the Constitution (“An accusation shall not be based on illegally obtained evidence as well as on assumptions”).
The Constitutional Court decided that this should be understood as meaning that criminal charges could not be based on material received through investigative operations carried out by those without the authority to do so or with infringements of the law. Mykola Melnychenko’s tapes, taken without the knowledge of Kuchma, present Speaker of Parliament Volodymyr Lytvyn and others, clearly fall under such a ban.
The criminal investigation initiated against Leonid Kuchma was widely reported – and welcomed – abroad. The quashing of the case comes in the same week that an appeal is being heard against a 7 year prison sentence passed down on former Prime Minister, leader of the opposition Batkivshchyna Party and presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko by the same Pechersky District Court. The criminal proceedings, trial and detention in that case have been widely condemned as politically motivated.
Information about Wednesday’s ruling from UNIAN