Journalist Grigory Pasko denied travel passport

New York, July 10, 2003—
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is dismayed that Moscow’s southeastern district visa and registration authorities (OVIR) have denied a foreign passport to journalist Grigory Pasko, who was released from prison in January after serving more than two years in prison.

Pasko told CPJ in a telephone interview that officials denied his application, which was submitted in March 2003, on Tuesday, July 8, because he was released from prison in January 2003 before serving his entire prison sentence. Pasko and his lawyer maintain that Russian law does not contain such restrictions and have already appealed the decision.

Pasko was convicted of treason and sentenced to four years in prison on December 25, 2001, for intending to leak classified information to Japanese news outlets about the Russian Pacific Fleet’s dumping of nuclear waste in the Sea of Japan.

“We are concerned that after unjustly convicting and imprisoning Grigory Pasko, Russian authorities continue to harass him,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “Grigory should be issued a foreign passport immediately and allowed to travel freely, as provided by Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

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. 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 was released on parole based on good behavior in January 2003 after having served two-thirds of his four-year prison sentence. Pasko and his defense attorneys are seeking the reversal of the journalist’s guilty verdict and have appealed to the European Court of Human Rights.