New York, May 29, 2001 — Two representatives of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) arrived in Moscow today on their way to Vladivostok to support Russian journalist Grigory Pasko, who is facing a second trial on charges of treason and revealing state secrets. CPJ board member Peter Arnett and Europe program consultant Emma Gray will be in Vladivostok on June 4, when the closed trial is scheduled to begin in the city’s military court.
Prior to the trial, Arnett and Gray plan to meet with justice and military officials in Moscow to highlight CPJ’s concerns about the renewed charges against Pasko. “This case is a
of how far the Russian government is prepared to go to silence journalists.”
Pasko was an investigative reporter with Boyevaya Vakhta, the newspaper owned by Russia’s Pacific Fleet. He was arrested on November 20, 1997, and accused of passing classified documents to Japanese television, NHK. Pasko maintained that he passed no classified material, and that he was prosecuted for working with Japanese news outlets that publicized environmental hazards at the Pacific Fleet’s facilities.
The journalist spent 20 months in prison awaiting trial. On July 20, 1999, he was acquitted of treason, but was found guilty of abusing his authority as an officer. He received a three-year sentence but was released under an amnesty program.
Violations of Due Process Cited
Both the prosecution and defense appealed the ruling. On November 21, 2000, the Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court canceled the lower court’s verdict and called for new hearings. If convicted, Pasko faces a sentence of 12 to 20 years in prison.
The presiding judge of the first trial cited prosecutors from the Federal Security Service (FSB) for unspecified violations of due process during their investigation. CPJ calls on the Russian authorities to ensure that any legal proceedings against Pasko are carried out according to international standards.
CPJ executive director Ann Cooper said, “This case is a litmus test of how far the Russian government is prepared to go to silence journalists. We believe that Grigory Pasko’s reports exposing environmental hazards were in the public interest, and that he should be fully acquitted of the charges against him.” Cooper added, “In defending Grigory Pasko and standing beside him as his second trial begins, we are demonstrating our solidarity with all Russian journalists who speak out on issues of public concern.”