Gongadze case: Pukach trial postponed till autumn
Valentine Telychenko, lawyer representing Myroslava Gongadze, widow of the murdered journalist, informs that the next hearing in the trial of the former Police General Oleksy Pukach accused in connection with the murder of Georgy Gongadze in 2000 is scheduled for 4 September.
She said that she does not see any infringement in Pukach’s rights given how long he was in hiding, and considers that the participants in the trial should enjoy their right to rest over the summer.
Ms Telychenko added that two witnesses still need to be questioned.
With regard to Pukach, she said: “He has taken a stance which is unlikely to be in his favour. He is trying to distract the court with details of his life which have no bearing on the crime but which he thinks lessen his guilt”.
“He says strange things about the motive for the crime which contradict what has already been established with regard to the crime against Podolsky”.
The criticism and demands made by Ukrainian and international media organizations regarding this trial and the Gongadze case in general remain relevant.
International and Ukrainian journalist organizations are concerned over the lack of progress in finding those responsible for the murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze. They demand an open trial of former Police General Oleksy Pukach; a criminal investigation over pressure on the investigators with regard to Volodymyr Lytvyn; Edward Fere; Leonid Derkach and others whom Pukach’s testimony alleges are implicated in the crime.
The statement by Stop Censorship and the Ukrainian Media Association, supported by Reporters without Borders expresses deep concern over the lack of any progress in establishing the truth and bringing those who commissioned Georgy Gongadze’s murder to justice during the last two years.
“The trial of O. Pukach remains totally behind closed doors although among the 116 volumes of the case only around 10 volumes are secret. Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights stipulates the right to an open trial and a minimum number of closed court hearings linked with the need to protect State secrets. We consider the closed nature of the entire trial to be a violation of the public’s and the victims’ right to receive information of public importance. We believe that in this way they are creating artificial means of obstructing journalists from carrying out their professional duties.
We believe that the fragmentation of the Gongadze case is hampering establishment of the truth as to who really ordered the murder. At present there are 5 cases linked with the murder of Georgy Gongadze – 1) on the charges against O. Pukach; 2) on the charges against Yury Kravchenko (former Internal Affairs Minister who officially committed suicide in early 2005 – translator); 3) on the charges against Leonid Kuchma; and 4) against other people implicated in the killing (a case existing mainly for speculation). There is also the case on the charges against Mykola Melnychenko which is apparently being investigated by the Security Service Investigation Department. Yet according to the law, if the crime is one and the same, then dividing up a case is possible only when there are significant obstructions to their being examined together. As a minimum, the cases against Kravchenko and Kuchma need to be combined into one.
We demand that clarity be immediately established regarding those people whose names at least figure in the testimony of Pukach and Melnychenko (Volodymyr Lytvyn; L. Derkach; Y. Marchuk; O. Moroz; E. Fere and others). There is the same mass of evidence against them as against Kravchenko and Kuchma (the evidence of O. Pukach and the Melnychenko tapes), yet there is no decision refusing to initiate criminal proceedings, nor a decision to initiate these. We demand an immediate end to political games around the Gongadze case.
We strongly condemn the refusal by the Prosecutor General’s Office to investigate obstruction of the investigation in the Gongadze case, including obstructing identification of the people involved in falsifying and blocking investigation in 2000-2004; establishing and obstructing the investigation into L. Kuchma’s role, etc. The fact that there had been such obstruction was first established by the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights in the Case of Gongadze v. Ukraine from 8 November 2005. “
They demand that:
The Pechersky District Court in Kyiv:
- explains to the judges, including the panel of judges examining the charges against Oleksy Pukach the need to make court hearings closed as little as possible in connection with state secrets;
- revises the system for hearings and examines only classified material behind closed doors.
The Prosecutor General’s Office:
- informs which investigator accepted the case on charges against Kravchenko and when an end to the investigation into the case is planned;
- initiate a criminal investigation over pressure on the investigators during the investigation into the murder of Gongadze, identified by the European Court of Human Rights;
- clarify position via procedural means regarding a decision to initiate a criminal investigation with respect to Volodymyr Lytvyn; Edward Fere; Leonid Derkach and others, whose implication in the crime is spoken of in Pukach’s testimony.
The Security Service:
- inform whether Major Melnychenko has been placed on the international wanted list and explain why he is freely and without obstruction moving around Europe.
The Ukrainian Media Association is made up of the Institute for Mass Information; the Media Law Institute; Internews Ukraine; the Media Front Trade Union; the Journalist Investigation Bureau Svidomo; Telekritika and the Committee for the Monitoring of Press Freedom in the Crimea.