Ukraine: Trial to resume for three former police officers accused in journalist's killing

The trial of three former police officers charged with killing a journalist who wrote about high-level corruption was set to resume Monday after a two-week delay.

The case stemming from the 2000 death of Hrihory Gongadze, a muckraking Internet journalist, is being closely watched as a test for this ex-Soviet republic's Western-leaning government and its commitment to the rule of law.

Gongadze, 31, was abducted and his decapitated body was found in a forest outside Kiev in 2000. Months of protests erupted against former President Leonid Kuchma after a key witness later released tape recordings in which voices sounding like those of Kuchma and other top officials are heard conspiring against Gongadze.

Kuchma has repeatedly denied any involvement. The trial against Valery Kostenko, Mykola Protasov and Alexander Popovych was postponed on Jan. 9 _ the day it opened _ after one of the defendants complained of a health problem. The three face charges of murder and abuse of office.

Another former police officer, Oleksiy Pukach, is being sought. Meanwhile, dozens of journalists have complained that the proceedings were effectively being held behind closed doors since the courtroom at the Kiev Appeals Court was so small that few outside observers could watch.

A lawyer for Gongadze's family, Andriy Fedur, said Sunday that it was unclear whether the judge had found a larger location, as promised, the AP reports.

President Viktor Yushchenko vowed to solve the politically charged case, in which Kuchma and a number of other high profile officials have been questioned. Gongadze's family has criticized authorities for not identifying the organizers of the crime.


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