All quiet on the Eastern Front

Publish date: July 19, 2001

Written by: Jon Gauslaa

The re-trial of journalist Grigory Pasko has so far produced few surprises, as the Court is still examining the case files. The first witnesses will be questionned on July 23. Meanwhile the defence attacks the prosecution for falsification of evidence.


The Pasko-trial is now well into its second week, which the Court will use to go through the case files consisting of thousands of pages divided into more than 20 volumes.

First witnesses on July 23

The Court, closed to the public because of the secrecy of the charges, is expected to hear the first witnesses on July 23. Particular interest is connected to its questioning of three Japanese reporters who worked for Japan’s state-run NHK television and the Asahi newspaper, for which Pasko wrote as a free-lancer. It is yet unclear when the Japanese witnesses will take the stand as the prosecution apparently plans to call 50 other witnesses.

– Perhaps five of them have connection with the case, Pasko said after the court session on July 11. The Court has also ordered experts to determine the authenticity of Pasko’s voice in phone conversations recorded by security agents and to determine whether the classified documents in the case were indeed secret. Thus, the trial may drag out for months.

This worries Pasko’s supporters. – Pasko has now endured four years of persecution, 20 months in jail, and three trial postponements, said Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. We call on the Russian judiciary to complete the trial swiftly and with respect for due process.

Falsification of evidence

When the trial resumed on July 16, the defence filed a complaint accusing the prosecution for having backdated two orders that were presented to the Court on July 13, concerning the “disciplinary actions” against investigation officers who had falsified evidence of the case. The orders were a response to a Court ruling dated July 20, 1999 with regard to the falsification of the evidence, and should have been issued within August 20, 1999. However, they were apparently issued several months later and then backdated to August 20.

According to the defence this episode characterises the way the FSB has worked on the case. – Attempts to prove Pasko’s guilt were illegal and sometimes even criminal, said co-defender Ivan Pavlov. We have a difficult job since our opponents used tricks during the investigation, and they do not hesitate to use them now by falsifying evidence in order to prevent the Court from establishing the truth.

Pasko not the only one

Grigory Pasko is one of several Russian whistle-blowers and researchers recently accused of espionage for passing allegedly classified information to foreigners. Arms control researcher Igor Sutyagin is currently on trial in Kaluga on charges of spying for the United States.

Pasko was in his first trial in 1999 acquitted of espionage and in stead convicted for abuse of office and was freed under an amnesty. Seeking a full acquittal, Pasko appealed, but so did prosecutors, insisting that he was a spy. On November 21, 2000 the Military Supreme Court cancelled the verdict and sent the case back for trial by a different judge. Pasko faces minimum 12 years in prison if convicted.