Kiev leak hits Web

THE CASE of the murder of Gyorgy Gongadze took a dramatic turn at the end of July when a group of journalists posted leaked documents from the Ukrainian prosecutors' offices on the Web. Gyorgy, a journalist with the independent online publication Ukrayinska Pravda, disappeared on 18 September 2000. His headless body was later found in a ditch in a suburb of Kiev. Four years on, questions remain about his death and the investigations into it.

Tussles over who doesn't get their picture taken

Gyorgy Gongadze

The Ukrainian authorities had reason to be annoyed with Gyorgy. In the run-up to presidential elections in September 1999, for example, he asked President Leonid Kuchma why the security services never caught former prime minister Pavlo Lazarenko, who is believed to have received millions of dollars' worth of bribes in a gas trading scandal in 1995-97 and was convicted on 3 June of money-laundering charges in the USA. At the end of 2002 a tape emerged of President Kuchma ordering that Gyorgy Gongadze be "dealt with".

The leaked documents may provide important evidence to substantiate claims, first published by the Independent in June, that the investigation of the Gongadze case was obstructed at the highest level of government. The documents, in Ukrainian and Russian, appear to include witness statements collected by investigators at the prosecutor general's office; a secret autopsy of Ihor Honcharov, a key witness who died in jail, showing he had been injected with a poisonous drug; details of surveillance of Gongadze in the weeks before his death. They are online at

Immediately after the Independent article, Ukrainian authorities announced that a prisoner already jailed on another charge had confessed to Gyorgy's murder.

Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, said when the documents were released: "The Gongadze case is vital for journalists across Europe. Not only has a journalist been murdered with impunity, but a series of investigations have failed and vital evidence ignored. The International Federation of Journalists last year began its own inquiry into this catalogue of breakdowns, which the NUJ is actively supporting. In the interests of media freedom and free speech we believe it is right that the documents be publicly available."

The NUJ believes the documents to be genuine, but is not able independently to verify this.

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