Pasko case in Supreme Court

The Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court is to decide Tuesday on whether the Pasko case will be closed for good or sent back to the Pacific Fleet military court in Vladivostok for re-evaluation. The odds are high that Pasko will be found guilty of high treason should the Supreme Court rule in favour of the new trial.

Grigory Pasko, an investigative journalist who worked for Pacific Fleet’s newspaper, was arrested in Vladivostok on November 20th 1997. The Russian Security Police, FSB, was in charge of the case and said Pasko committed high treason when working with Japanese journalists. Pasko’s publications were focusing primarily on nuclear safety issues in the Russian Pacific Fleet, which operates nuclear powered submarines.

In July 1999, the Pacific Fleet military court found Pasko guilty of ‘official position abuse’. Sentenced to three years, Pasko was immediately freed under an amnesty as he had already served 20 months in pre-trial detention. In response, the Pacific Fleet prosecutor lodged an appeal with the Russian Supreme Court asking to return the case back to the military court in Vladivostok for re-evaluation. The prosecutor also said in his appeal that the verdict was too soft for the alleged crime and asked to replace the judges, who basically acquitted Pasko of the high treason charges.

Pasko’s defence team also filed an appeal to the Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court and demanded full acquittal of their client. Lawyers said that Pasko’s actions ‘contained no crime’ and that the investigative body obtained all the so-called evidence with violation of laws.

During ransack at Pasko’s apartment, the FSB forged a number of records and put in names of witnesses who never were present at the time of the search. The FSB also retroactively assigned a ‘classified’ status to a number of documents retrieved from the journalist’s apartment.

Moscow based Glasnost Foundation, which was defending Pasko throughout the process, said in a press release Monday that the Pacific Fleet prosecutors were very upset that Pasko was cleared of espionage charges by the court in Vladivostok. “Judging by the statements [regarding the Pasko case] made by the high-ranks from the Pacific Fleet Prosecutor’s Office and the FSB, they will try to take revenge on Pasko regardless the cost,” said the press release from the Glasnost Foundation.

The Pasko case received world-wide attention. Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience, while international journalist organisations awarded him for his courage.