Supreme Court upholdsacquittal of journalists on state secrets charge

New York, November 10, 2003—Russia’s Supreme Court upheld the acquittal last week of two journalists from the Perm-based independent newspaper Zvezda who were charged with revealing state secrets.

Yuri Shmidt, the journalists’ lawyer, said that the district court’s ruling was so strongly supportive of the journalists that it would have been impossible for the Supreme Court to overturn it.

According to local and international press reports, the Federal Security Service (FSB) in the Urals city of Perm launched a criminal case in October 2002 against Konstantin Bakharev and Konstantin Sterledev, crime reporters known for their coverage of police abuses, after the journalists published an article about a corrupt FSB informant.

FSB officers raided Zvezda in November 2002, searching the newspaper’s editorial offices and questioning editor-in-chief Sergey Trushnikov regarding the source of the information. In March 2003, the FSB charged the journalists with revealing state secrets. If convicted, the journalists faced up to four years in prison.

On July 22, after a month-long closed trial, the Perm district court acquitted the journalists on the basis that they were not the original source of confidential information, which they published in the course of their professional activity. The Perm district court sentenced a local police officer, who had provided the journalists with information about the FSB informant, to two years in jail for disclosing a state secret.

In August, the prosecutor general’s office in Perm appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court. But on November 6, the Supreme Court upheld the acquittal.