June 21 article: CPJ calls for full exoneration of imprisoned journalist Grigory Pasko

New York, June 25, 2002—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is dismayed that the Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court today upheld journalist Grigory Pasko’s December 2001 conviction and prison sentence.

Pasko was convicted of treason and sentenced to four years in prison on December 25, 2001, based on the charge that he intended to leak classified information about the Russian Pacific Fleet’s dumping of nuclear waste in the Sea of Japan to Japanese news outlets. He is currently serving his jail term in Vladivostok.

Pasko’s defense lawyers, who sought his full acquittal and release, plan to appeal today’s ruling with the Presidium of the Russian Supreme Court, according to news reports and CPJ sources.

“The situation has become so far removed from the realm of the law that it is hard to predict what will happen next,” Pasko’s defense lawyer Ivan Pavlov told CPJ in a telephone interview today. “We shall fight on, though the opportunities are becoming fewer. We shall not rest until Grigory is free. This I can promise.”

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.

During the last year, CPJ has conducted two missions to Russia in support of Pasko’s legal efforts. In June 2001, a CPJ delegation traveled to Vladivostok to attend the journalist’s trial, which was postponed. In March 2002, a second delegation including CPJ’s honorary co-chairman Terry Anderson tried to visit Pasko in prison but was denied permission.

“With every ruling, the case against Pakso looks more and more like a political vendetta,” said Anderson. “We hope his sentence will be reversed on appeal.”