The slight, balding Onoprienko displayed no emotion as Judge Dmytro Lypsky read the verdict, which also convicted his fellow defendant Sergei Rogozin, 36, as an accessory in nine of the early murders.
"The panel of judges finds Onoprienko and Rogozin guilty," said Judge Lypsky, who presided over the four-month non-jury trial with four other judges in Zhytomyr. "The guilt of the defendants Onoprienko and Rogozin is confirmed by the proof given," he said, citing fingerprints, clothes and weapons as well as witness testimony.
Onoprienko has admitted to all 52 murders. Rogozin has denied being an accessory to the murders and participating with an armed gang.
Ukraine declared an informal moratorium on executions after joining the Council of Europe in 1995, and the regional court's only alternative to capital punishment in murder cases is a maximum prison sentence of 15 years. However, pressure is high on the court to pass the death sentence on the man who slaughtered whole families, including infants and the elderly.
"I came here just to have a look at this beast," said Nikolai Minovich, 71, one of the crowd of onlookers standing in the packed courtroom. "He should have been shot already because it is self-evident that he committed all those crimes and is no longer a human being."
His client would appeal if he received the death sentence, his lawyer, Ruslan Moshkovsky, said. Onoprienko grew up in a Soviet orphanage and his claims that he was driven by strange voices have raised concerns about his mental health among some human rights activists.
"A moratorium is still not a law." Moshkovsky said. "I personally will appeal against the death sentence and will personally turn to the president for mitigation." (Reuters)Reuse content