CPJ welcomes Grigory Pasko’s release

New York, January 23, 2002—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) welcomes today’s decision by a court in the city of Ussuriisk, in the Russian Far East, to grant parole to military journalist Grigory Pasko. The journalist was released immediately and traveled to his home in Vladivostok.

Under Russian law, Pasko, who had served two-thirds of his four-year prison sentence, was eligible for parole based on good behavior. State prosecutors are contemplating protesting the parole decision, Russian and international news reported.

Pasko and his defense attorneys plan to seek the reversal of the journalist’s guilty verdict. According to Russian news reports, Pasko’s lawyer Ivan Pavlov said a petition has already been filed with the chairman of the Russian Supreme Court and should be heard in a month. “We are going to work to achieve the full exoneration of my good name. We’re going to do everything to ensure that this criminal case is recognized as falsification,” said Pasko, following his release today, according to The Associated Press.

“We are greatly relieved by Grigory Pasko’s release, which ends his unjust imprisonment,” said CPJ acting director Joel Simon. “Pasko did nothing more than fulfill his professional duty as a journalist by informing the public. He never should have been prosecuted in the first place. We hope the Supreme Court will overturn Pasko’s treason conviction, finally confirming his innocence.”

Pasko was convicted of treason and sentenced to four years in prison on December 25, 2001, for intending to leak classified information about the Russian Pacific Fleet’s dumping of nuclear waste in the Sea of Japan to Japanese news outlets. He was held in a temporary detention facility in Vladivostok until October 2002, when he was transferred to a penal colony in Ussuriisk, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) northeast of Vladivostok.

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, 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, which began on July 11, 2001.

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