Supreme Court reinstates decree used to jail investigative journalist

New York, May 8, 2002
—The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned by yesterday’s decision of the Appeals Board of the Supreme Court to reinstate a Defense Ministry decree that was used to convict and jail Russian 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.

Yesterday, the court reinstated Defense Ministry Decree No. 055, which lists various categories of military information considered state secrets.

In February, the Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court had annulled the decree after Pasko’s defense lawyers filed a complaint challenging its legality.

At the same time, the Appeals Board upheld another February decision of the Military Collegium nullifying a clause in a 1990 Defense Ministry Decree also used to convict Pasko. Decree No. 010, a relic from the Soviet period, prohibited “nonprofessional” contacts between Russian military personnel and foreign citizens.

Meanwhile, Pasko’s lawyers have appealed the journalist’s conviction and are waiting for the Military Collegium to set a date for the hearing.

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. He 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, which began on July 11, 2001.