Pasko trial postponed

Publish date: June 5, 2001

Written by: Igor Kudrik

The prosecutor in the Pasko case has asked for trial postponement until June 20th. Pasko's defenders are confident they will win the case should it remain on the legal field.

The Pasko case hearing in the Pacific Fleet military court scheduled for June 4th was postponed until June 20th on the Pacific Fleet prosecutor request. The prosecutor grounded his request by urgent family affairs.

Pasko’s lawyers denounced the postponement at the press conference they gathered the same day. They called it just a part of the serious of law abuses committed by the prosecution in this case.

The defence said that the prosecution is delaying the process that has already been dragging for more than three years. The lawyers said that in conformity with the European Convention on Human Rights, which Russia is obliged to follow, an accused has the right to get his case determined in reasonable time. The new delay is a clear violation of this principle.

The case with no criminal content

Ivan Pavlov, the new defender of Pasko, said the defence team is prepared to meet the prosecution in the courtroom.

“Having read through all the case files, I saw none of the documents which could indicate that the case has any criminal content. Pasko is accused of fulfilling his professional duty as a reporter. The only ‘crime’ he committed was covering the unfavourable environmental situation in the Russian Far East,” Ivan Pavlov said at the press conference.

Ivan Pavlov arrived to defend Grigory Pasko from St Petersburg. He was a member of the defence team who won the Nikitin case. Aleksandr Nikitin, retired submarine officer, was charged with high treason for contributing to Bellona’s report on the nuclear safety issues in the Russian Northern Fleet. Nikitin was fully acquitted by St Petersburg City Court in 1999. The Presidium of the Russian Supreme Court upheld the acquittal in September 2000.

Pasko’s lawyers say that the Pasko case and the Nikitin case are practically identical, both in content and in the character of violations done by Russian security police, or FSB, which was in charge of the investigation.

Environmental espionage and military decree

Pasko is charged with high treason for gathering and transfer of open information on the environmental situation in the Russian Pacific Fleet to a journalist of the Japanese TV company NHK.

The basis for the charges against Pasko is an expert evaluation of various confiscated documents, which is based on secret decree of the Russian defence minister. It violates the Russian Constitution, which says that unpublished normative acts can not be used for prosecuting a person. According to Ivan Pavlov, right after the Nikitin case was over, the decree was amended by the Defence Ministry in attempt to bring it in consent with the federal Law on State Secrets and common sense. Thus, a part of the charges against Pasko is automatically falling away. The rest of the charges are illegal as the decree itself can not be applied against him.

90% of the evidence gathered illegally

More than 90% of the so-called evidence in the Pasko case are gathered illegally or simply falsified. Thus, it must be excluded from the case files. The last trial, which took place in 1999, filed out a separate court decision addressed towards the FSB investigators, involved in the case, and the Pacific Fleet Prosecutor Office. One of the investigators was reprimanded, but no criminal case on the matter of falsification was launched.

To keep prosecution on the legal field

“Our stance clear – the case has no juridical background,” Ivan Pavlov said.

But he was concerned that the FSB would apply all the resources in their disposal to put pressure on the court. “Our opponents have no chance to win the game if they stay on the legal field. Our common task is not let them step aside that field”, Ivan Pavlov appealed to the journalists at the press conference.

The Pasko case

Grigory Pasko was an investigative reporter with Boyevaya Vakhts, or Battle Watch, a newspaper run by the Pacific Fleet. He was arrested by the FSB in November 1997 and charged with high treason for working with a Japanese TV company. He spent almost two years in pre-trial custody. The Pacific Fleet military court acquitted Pasko of high treason charges in 1999. He was accused, however, of abusing his authority as an officer. He received a three-year sentence but walked free under amnesty. The verdict was appealed by both the Pacific Fleet Prosecutor Office and the defence team to the Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court. On November 21st 2000, the Supreme Court cancelled the lower court’s verdict and called for new hearing in the same court in Vladivostok, but chaired by another judge.