CPJ calls for full exoneration of imprisoned journalist Grigory Pasko

New York, June 21, 2002—The Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court is scheduled to hear an appeal on June 25 of imprisoned journalist Grigory Pasko’s December 25, 2001 conviction.

Pasko’s defense lawyers are seeking his full acquittal and release. According to Russian sources, state prosecutors plan to use the hearing to ask for a harsher sentence.

Pasko was convicted of treason and sentenced to four years in prison 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 is currently serving his jail term in Vladivostok.

“Russian authorities have been persecuting Grigory Pasko since 1997 in retaliation for his articles about environmental dangers that jeopardized the health of the Russian people,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “On June 25, we hope the Military Collegium sees that justice is done by clearing Pasko’s name and setting him free.”

Pasko, an investigative reporter with Boyevaya Vakhta, 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, the Military Court of the Pacific Fleet in Vladivostok acquitted Pasko of treason but found him 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 verdict and ordered a new trial.

On December 25, 2001, the Military Court found Pasko guilty of treason and sentenced him to four years in prison.

Earlier this year, the Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court hurt the prosecution’s case against Pasko when it annulled a clause of Defense Ministry Decree No. 010, a relic from the Soviet period, which prohibited “nonprofessional” contacts between Russian military personnel and foreign citizens.

At the same time, the Military Collegium also nullified Defense Ministry Decree No. 055, after Pasko’s lawyers filed a complaint challenging its legality. This decree listed various categories of military information as state secrets. Three months later, however, the Appeals Board of the Supreme Court reinstated this decree.