New York, February 13, 2002—CPJ commends today’s decision by the Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court to nullify a clause in a 1990 Defense Ministry decree used to convict military journalist Grigory Pasko.
Pasko was convicted of treason in December 2001, based on the charge that he intended to leak classified information to Japanese news outlets about the Russian Pacific Fleet’s dumping of nuclear waste in the Sea of Japan. Pasko was sentenced to four years in prison and is currently serving his jail term in Vladivostok.
Decree No. 010, a relic from the Soviet period, prohibited “nonprofessional” contacts between Russian military personnel and foreign citizens. The Military Collegium annulled the decree in response to a complaint filed by Pasko’s defense lawyers, who disputed its legality.
Yesterday, the Military Collegium annulled Ministry of Defense Decree No. 055, a secret order that listed various types of military information considered state secrets and was also used to convict and imprison Pasko. [See February 12 alert.]
“Today’s decision further undermines the prosecution’s case against Grigory Pasko,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “Pasko never should have been prosecuted in the first place, and the Military Collegium should acquit him.”
On December 25, 2001, the Military Court of the Pacific Fleet in Vladivostok found Pasko guilty of treason and sentenced him to four years in prison. The journalist was taken into custody in the courtroom and placed in detention, where he remains today.
Pasko, an investigative reporter with Boyevaya Vakhta (Battle Watch), a newspaper published by the Pacific Fleet, was arrested in November 1997 and charged with passing classified documents to Japanese news outlets. He spent 20 months in prison awaiting trial.
In July 1999, Pasko was acquitted of treason but found guilty of abusing his authority as an officer. He was immediately amnestied, but four months later the Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court canceled the Vladivostok court’s verdict and ordered a new trial. That trial began on July 11, 2001.