Ukraine's state prosecutor opened a criminal case on Tuesday against former president Leonid Kuchma for his suspected role in the murder of opposition journalist Georgiy Gongadze in 2000.
Georgiy Gongadze, who criticized Kuchma's leadership in the online newspaper Ukrainska Pravda, disappeared in Kiev on September 16, 2000. His decapitated body was found two months later in a wooded area near the capital.
"Leonid Danilovich Kuchma is suspected of power abuse and giving illegal orders to the country's Interior Ministry's officials, which led to the murder of a journalist," first deputy prosecutor Renat Kuzmin said.
Following the scandal, a leading opposition politician made public audiotapes in which a voice similar to Kuchma's ordered officials to "deal with" Gongadze. Kuzmin said the audiotapes were being used as evidence in the case.
Kuchma, who ruled Ukraine from 1994 to 2005, has consistently denied involvement in the murder.
In June 2008, three former employees of the Interior Ministry's criminal investigations department were found guilty of murdering Gongadze. The officers said they killed the journalist on orders from the former head of the ministry's criminal investigations department, Lt. Gen. Oleksa Pukach.
Pukach evaded arrest and fled to Israel. He was arrested in summer 2009 in Kiev and is awaiting trial.
In September the state prosecutor accused Yuri Kravchenko, who was interior minister in 2000, of ordering the murder,
Kuchma has been ordered not to leave Ukraine.
KIEV, March 22 (RIA Novosti)