Ukrainian journalist's killers get 12-13 years in jail
( RIA Novosti ) - A court in Kiev sentenced three suspects in the murder of Ukrainian journalist Georgiy Gongadze to 12-13 years in prison on Saturday.
Gongadze, known for his criticism of the Ukrainian government, was kidnapped on September 16, 2000, and his decapitated body was found two months later in a wood near Kiev. The murder sparked protests against the then president, Leonid Kuchma.
The three defendants - Colonel Valeriy Kostenko, Colonel Mykola Protasov, and Major Oleksandr Popovych - were all senior Interior Ministry officers. They were arrested in August 2005. Kostenko and Popovych have been given 12-year sentences, and Prostasov 13 years.
The officers, while admitting to the charges, said earlier that the killing was carried out on orders from Oleksa Pukach, who was the Interior Ministry's general responsible for surveillance of Gongadze at the time of the kidnapping.
Pukach evaded arrest and fled to Israel several years ago. He is on Ukraine's most-wanted list.
After the court hearing the defense team said it would appeal against the sentences.
"Given that these people played a secondary role, the sentence against them is fairly severe and not entirely just," Viktor Chernyshin, a lawyer for Protasov, told reporters.
"Considering all the circumstances and the severity of the sentence, we will appeal against it."