Ukraine Gongadze murder: Secret trial for Pukach

Olexiy Pukach being arrested in July 2009 (still from video handed out by Ukrainian secret services) Olexiy Pukach was arrested in July 2009

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The main suspect in the notorious 2000 murder of Ukrainian journalist Georgy Gongadze has gone on trial in the capital Kiev, local media report.

Journalists were barred from the preliminary hearing for Olexiy Pukach, a former senior official at the interior ministry.

He is said to have confessed to strangling and beheading Gongadze.

The murder has gripped Ukraine for years, with former President Leonid Kuchma facing related charges.

Valentina Telichenko, representing Gongadze's widow Miroslava in court, said most of the trial would probably take place in secret.

Arrested in 2009, Mr Pukach was said by Ukrainian investigators to have confessed to the murder, using an axe to behead the journalist.

Kuchma charged

Three other officials are already serving jail terms for their part in the murder while former Interior Minister Yuri Kravchenko, now dead, is said to have ordered the crime.

Georgy Gongadze (undated family photo) Georgy Gongadze's headless body was found in a forest

Mr Kuchma was charged last month with abuse of power over the murder, which occurred while he was president.

Prosecutors say he gave orders to interior ministry officials that "eventually led to the journalist's killing".

Despite the charges, some analysts doubt Mr Kuchma's case will go to trial and, with 10 years having passed since the murder, some suggest he may benefit from the statute of limitations.

Gongadze's death sparked massive street protests against Mr Kuchma's government.

Gongadze - founder of the Ukrainska Pravda (Ukrainian Truth) website - had sought to expose high-level corruption.

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