PGO refuses to replace Pukach's lawyer, as requested by Gongadze's widow

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Oct. 28, 2009, 3:12 p.m. | Ukraine — by Interfax-Ukraine
Ukraine's Prosecutor General's Office has refused to replace the lawyer of the former head of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry's external surveillance department, Oleksiy Pukach, as requested by Valentyna Telychenko, the representative of murdered journalist Georgy Gongadze's wife Myroslava. In August of 2009, after they learned that Pukach had been assigned as defense counsel Mykola Laptev, the lawyer that defended interests Oleksandr Popovych, who was convicted as one of Gongadze's murderers, Tylychenko submitted a petition to the Prosecutor General's Office asking it to replace Pukach's lawyer.

"The interests of Popovych, who carried out the murder, conflict with those of Pukach, who ordered the crime, which means that assigning the same lawyer to them contradicts provisions of Article 61 of Ukraine's Criminal Code," Telychko told Interfax-Ukraine.

She said that the PGO dismissed her application about the replacement of the lawyer, as it sees no conflict between the interests of Pukach and Popovych.

As reported, journalist Georgy Gongadze went missing in Kyiv on September 16, 2000. In November 2000, a decapitated body believed, according to experts, to be that of the journalist, was found in a forest in Kyiv region.

The body has yet to be interred, as the journalist's mother, Lesia Gongadze, refuses to bury her son without his head.

In 2008, three former officials of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry's foreign surveillance department and criminal intelligence unit - colonels Valeriy Kostenko, Mykola Protasov, and major Oleksandr Popovych, were found guilty of killing the journalist and sentenced to 12 (Kostenko and Popovych) and 13 (Protasov) years in prison.

Pukach, the former chief of the main criminal investigation department at the ministry's foreign surveillance unit, was long on the wanted list, and arrested in Zhytomyr region on July 21, 2009, as a result of a joint operation by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) and the Prosecutor General's Office. However, it remains unclear who ordered the murder.

On July 23, Kyiv's Pechersky district court decided to remand Pukach, who is charged with being involved with Gongadze murder, in custody.
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