Pasko case postponed – again

Grigorij Pasko
Siri Engesæth/Bellona

Publish date: June 20, 2001

Written by: Jon Gauslaa

The espionage trial against journalist Grigory Pasko is developing into a legal farce. Now it has been postponed again - for the third time.

The second espionage trial against Grigory Pasko was originally scheduled to begin at the Court of the Russian Pacific Fleet in Vladivostok on March 22. But the trial was postponed to June 4, then to June 20 because of the prosecutor’s “family obligations”, and now to July 11, 2001. This time the Court has not given any explanation for the postponement.

In a press-release issued June 19, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), who recently declared Russian president Vladimir Putin as one of the ‘Ten Worst Enemies of the Press for 2001’, denounces the delays. CPJ notes that they are intended to exhaust Pasko’s defence and supporters.

– The decision to prolong, yet again, the politically-motivated case against Grigory Pasko is a clear example of how the Russian government uses its legal system to silence independent journalists who uncover official corruption and mismanagement, said CPJ deputy director Joel Simon. – We will, however, stand by Pasko until the government’s Kafkaesque case against him has been closed and he has been fully acquitted.

Russian military authorities have been pursuing Grigory Pasko for nearly four years on charges of treason through espionage and disclosure of state secrets. The authorities’ recent postponements of the case are completely unfounded. Thus, Pasko’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights to have the charges against him determined within a reasonable time are being violated.

Background: Pasko-case

Grigory Pasko was arrested on November 20, 1997, and charged with treason through espionage for having handed over alleged secret information to the Japanese television network NHK about the handling of nuclear waste in the Russian Pacific Fleet. The Court of the Pacific Fleet acquitted him of treason on July 20, 1999, but the Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court cancelled this verdict on November 21, 2000, and sent the case back to the lower court for new hearings. Pasko faces a minimum sentence of 12 years in prison if convicted.