New York, December 24, 2002—Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of Russian military journalist Grigory Pasko’s four-year prison sentence.
“The imprisonment of Grigory Pasko one year ago was a politicized effort by military and security officials to silence him for writing articles about environmental dangers that jeopardized the health of the Russian people,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). “Pasko’s continued imprisonment is an injustice that confirms the inability of the Russian judiciary to protect journalists’ fundamental rights in politically sensitive cases.”
On June 25, 2002, the Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court upheld Pasko’s conviction and imprisonment. During the last year, CPJ had called on the Supreme Court to overturn the conviction on several occasions.
Pasko, an investigative reporter with Boyevaya Vakhta, a newspaper published by Russia’s 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.