Supreme Court rejects journalist’s appeal to review conviction

New York, September 5, 2003—Russia’s Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal by Russian journalist Grigory Pasko challenging his December 2001 criminal conviction for treason.

Ivan Pavlov, Pasko’s attorney, told the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that he received a letter on Thursday, September 4, from the Supreme Court’s deputy chairman, Anatoli Merkushov, informing him that the court would not hear an appeal to review the December 25, 2001, criminal verdict.

Pavlov said this appeal, which he filed in April was the third attempt this year to overturn the conviction and clear the journalist’s name.

“We’ve tried everything in the Russian court system and clearly no one is listening to us,” said Pavlov. “Now we are waiting for the European Court of Human Rights to examine this case.”

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. Pasko was released on parole based on good behavior in January 2003 after having served two-thirds of his sentence.

Moscow’s Southeastern District Visa and Registration Authorities (OVIR) denied Pasko’s foreign passport application, submitted in March 2003, saying that he was released from prison in January 2003 before serving his full sentence.

Pasko and his attorney maintain that Russian law does not contain such restrictions and have challenged OVIR in court. Pasko appealed to the Supreme Court after Moscow’s Lyublinsky District Court and City Court both upheld the OVIR decision in separate rulings on July 24 and August 12.

“We are appalled that Russia’s politicized judicial system continues to persecute Grigory Pasko,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia program coordinator Alex Lupis. “We call on the European Court of Human Rights to overturn this unjust ruling.”

Pasko, an investigative military 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 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 before being released on good behavior in January 2003.