Melnychenko says he faces danger if returned to Ukraine
The court in Naples must now decide whether it is possible to extradite Melnychenko who now faces charges over the tapes which implicated Kuchma, Lytvyn and others in the murder of Gongadze
A Naples court was unable to continue the extradition hearing with respect to former Major Mykola Melnychenko on 6 August after the latter stated that he believed that his life would be in danger if he were returned to Ukraine.
Melnychenko’s lawyer, Mykola Nedilko explains that according to Italian law, once a person has stated such a position, the Justice Ministry has 10 days within which to make a decision. It can only continue with the extradition hearing if it decides that Mr Melnychenko’s statement is unfounded. Otherwise he will be released from custody.
As reported, Melnychenko was declared on the wanted list by the SBU [Ukrainian Security Service] in September 2011 and was detained on 2 August at Naples Airport in connection with an extradition request from the Ukrainian Interpol office.
This comes a month after the final court decision in Ukraine upholding termination of charges against former President Kuchma in connection with the murder of Georgy Gongadze. This is in connection with the Constitutional Court judgement from October 2011which stated that prosecutions could not be based on information received through investigative operations carried out by people unauthorized to do so. Major Melnychenko acted on his own initiative when he illicitly taped conversations between Kuchma and others.
Gongadze’s widow, Myroslava is planning to return to the European Court of Human Rights which has already once, in 2006, ordered Ukraine to carry out an investigation and establish the identity of those who ordered the journalist’s murder.
While appeals against the closure of the criminal case against Kuchma were still continuing, the Pechersky District Court in Kyiv on 26 December decided that the decision by the Prosecutor General’s Office back in 2001 to initiate criminal proceedings against former Presidential guard Mykola Melnychenko had been lawful.
From 2001 to 2004 criminal investigations were initiated against Melnychenko on charges of exceeding his authority, divulging state secrets, as well as of creating artificial evidence for the prosecution. In March 2005 the investigations were terminated by Prosecutor General Piskun. In June 2011 Kuchma’s lawyers appealed to the Pechersky District Court against the termination of the criminal investigation. That appeal was allowed, and the criminal investigation against Melnychenko reinstated.
Information about Monday’s hearing in Naples reported by UNIAN