New York, July 10, 2001—Grigory Pasko, the Russian military journalist who faces trial on charges of espionage and revealing state secrets, says he’s ready for the next stage in his battle with the authorities.

“It’s time this case was over. It’s been four years—how much longer can this continue?”
Grigory Pasko

“I’m in fighting spirits,” he told CPJ hours before his scheduled hearing in a Vladivostok military court. “We’re preparing for victory. We are convinced that we’ll win because all the rights and the laws are on our side.”

Defense lawyer Anatoly Pyshkin echoed Pasko’s mood: “We’re ready,” he told CPJ. “We’ve discussed our strategies thoroughly and are prepared for anything that the prosecution throws at us.”

Proceedings are scheduled for 10 a.m. on Wednesday, July 11, at the Pacific Fleet Military Courthouse in Vladivostok. The trial date has been postponed three times since March. Pasko’s supporters contend that the delays are designed to wear them down and are a violation of his right to a fair and timely trial. “The whole world is laughing at the Russian legal system,” Pasko said. “It’s time this case was over. It’s been four years—how much longer can this continue?”

A CPJ delegation visited Vladivostok in early June to demonstrate solidarity with the journalist. CPJ board member Peter Arnett and Europe program consultant Emma Gray were with Pasko at the courthouse when the second postponement was announced. They held a press conference to express support for the journalist.

On June 27, Arnett and other CPJ representatives met with Russian ambassador Yuri Ushakov in Washington, D.C., to voice CPJ’s deep concern about the trial and other press freedom abuses in Russia. The ambassador disagreed with CPJ’s assessment of Russian press conditions but promised to relay our concerns about specific cases to government authorities in Moscow.

Due-process violations
During Pasko’s first trial in July 1999, the presiding judge cited prosecutors from the Federal Security Service (FSB) for unspecified violations of due process. On the eve of the new trial, CPJ urges Russian authorities to ensure that any legal proceedings against the journalist are carried out according to international standards.

“We believe that Pasko’s drawn out prosecution is part of a wider strategy aimed at preventing journalists from exposing official corruption or incompetence,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “The law must be above politics, and we call on the Russian government to ensure that legal proceedings are conducted impartially.”

Pasko was an investigative reporter with Boyevaya Vakhta, a newspaper published by the Pacific Fleet. He was arrested on November 20, 1997, and accused of passing classified documents to the Japanese television network 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 found guilty of abusing his authority as an officer. He received a three-year sentence but was released under an amnesty program. His ordeal did not end there, however. On November 21, 2000, the Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court cancelled the lower court’s verdict and called for new hearings. Pasko faces a sentence of 12 to 20 years in prison if convicted.