Pasko walks out as a free man

Publish date: July 20, 1999

Written by: Igor Kudrik

Navy captain Grigory Pasko was sentenced to three years in prison, but was given amnesty right in the courtroom and walked out as a free man. The presiding judge Dmitry Savushkin said the court had rejected the initial charge of high treason against Pasko. In an interview with Bellona Web after his release this morning, Pasko said he would go back to his newspaper and continue his job as an environmental journalist.

Grigory Pasko spent one year and eight months in custody on high treason charges fabricated by the Russian Security Police, or the FSB. The prosecution called for 12-years sentence and continued to insist on it until today. But the FSB failed in their case against Pasko. The Vladivostok Military Tribunal dismissed the high treason charges, but sentenced him for three years for abusing his official position. The court said that while being a military journalist he gave video films and documentation about the Pacific Fleet’s dumping of radioactive waste into the sea to the Japanese TV in 1993. The Tribunal thereafter declared that Pasko was given amnesty.

"This is very, very good news," says Diederik Lohman, director of the Moscow office of the Human Rights Watch. Lohman says the court decision is amazing. "In 99,5 percent of all criminal cases in Russia a charged person is either found guilty or his case is sent back for further investigation. In the Pasko case, they had to convict him for something, but the verdict of today is still very good news," Lohman adds.

Going to get rid of all ‘bugs’ first
When Bellona Web took telephone contact with Grigory Pasko today he sounded tired but excited.

"There is no way the court could dismiss the whole case", Grigory Pasko says. "It has been no cases in history when high treason charges levelled by the KGB/FSB were dismissed unconditionally", Pasko adds. He says the court tried to please both the Russian Security Service and the rest of the world by finding a compromise.

His lawyers say they will appeal the verdict further up in the court system to get their client pronounced ‘not guilty’ on all charges.

Talking about his immediate plans Grigory Pasko said he would continue to work for Pacific Fleet’s official newspaper Boevaya Vakhta (Battle Watch). "And no son of a bitch can prevent me from doing so," Pasko adds. Although he was sure he would be fired shortly on some pretext.

"But the very first thing I am going to do today is to remove all ‘bugs’ installed by the FSB in my apartment", Pasko says wearily.

Grigory Pasko thanked everyone who gave him support which helped him to stay firm during the almost two-year ordeal.