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15 Mar, 2008 17:16

10+ years for opposition journalist murderers

Three former high ranking Ukrainian police officers, who confessed to the murder of the opposition journalist, Georgy Gongadze, have been sentenced to more than 10 years in prison. Hearings have been going for more than two years.

The case of a beheaded opposition journalist shocked the nation and exposed the ugly side of power circles in Ukraine.

Three former policemen have been convicted of murder. Their chief, Oleksey Pukach, is still at large. Discrediting the police force, defendants used violence against Gongandze. Keeping him in a back seat of their car, Protasov and Kostenko assaulted him physically.

Georgy Gongadze used to openly criticize Ukraine's government under former president Leonid Kuchma. He wrote a number of damaging articles accusing the ministers of corruption. He disappeared in 2000. His body was found decapitated in woods near Kiev.

In no time Socialist party leader Oleksandr Moroz released tape recordings allegedly capturing Leonid Kuchma ordering the murder.

The former president denies the allegations.

Almost eight years have passed. Politicians led their election campaigns with promises to find those guilty. Outrage at the murder laid the foundations of the Orange Revolution protests. But witnesses kept disappearing, investigative teams were reappointed, and the case discredited. Even the identity of the body was challenged.

All three policemen, while admitting to the charges, said that the killing was carried out on orders from their superior. They were each sentenced from 12 to 13 years in prison.

The Gongadze family lawyer said they would not appeal the court’s verdict.