Court rejects Melnychenko's tapes as evidence in Gongadze case

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Dec. 14, 2011 11:48
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A man he holds a candle and placard with the portrait of Ukrainian journalist Georgy Gongadze during a memorial rally at the Independence square in Kyiv on Sept. 16, 2011, to mark the 11th anniversary of the murder of investigate journalist Georgy Gongadze, an editor of the online daily Ukrainska Pravda, who disappeared after leaving a friend's apartment in Kyiv on Sept. 16, 2000.
Photo by AFP
Pechersky District Court of Kyiv has ruled that audio recording made by former Major of the State Department of Guard Mykola Melnychenko were obtained illegally and thus cannot serve as evidence in the criminal case against Ukraine's second president Leonid Kuchma on charges of involvement in the murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze.
According to the court, a criminal case may be opened only when there is enough evidence that a person committed a crime.

"At the same time, the court found that the statements of [then chairman of the Verkhovna Rada] Oleksandr Moroz and [former major of presidential guard] Mykola Melnychenko and other people haven't been properly registered," the court's ruling reads.

"In fact, the only foundation for instituting criminal proceedings is the audio recording made by Mykola Melnychenko... at the same time, an accusation can not be based on evidence obtained by illegal means and by a person unauthorized to carry out investigative activities. Thus, the court concluded that the records were made illegally and received by dubious means," Pechersky Court Judge Halyna Suprun said reading the court's ruling.

The court's decision may be appealed against within seven days.

As reported, Kyiv Pechersky District Court canceled an order by the Prosecutor General's Office to open a criminal case against Kuchma on suspicion of his possible involvement in the Gongadze murder.

Judge Suprun announced this ruling on Wednesday after hearing a complaint by Kuchma's defense team against the lawfulness of his prosecution.

Journalist Georgy Gongadze went missing in Kyiv on Sept. 16, 2000. A headless body that experts believed could be that of Gongadze was found in the forest in the Kyiv region in Nov. 2000.

In November 2000, former officer of the State Security Guard of Ukraine, Major Mykola Melnychenko published audio recordings allegedly made in the office of President Leonid Kuchma. The recordings implicated Kuchma and several other high-ranking officials in putting pressure on journalists, parliamentary deputies and judges over Gongadze's murder.

A criminal case was opened against Kuchma on March 21, 2011. He is charged with abuse of power and official authority, which subsequently led to the murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze (Part 3, Article 166 of the 1960 Criminal Code). Tapes secretly recorded by Kuchma's former bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko in the president's office were declared to be material evidence in the case.

However, the Constitutional Court ruled on Oct. 20, 2011, that evidence collected illegally cannot serve as the grounds for criminal charges.

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