Pasko-trial: the first three days

Publish date: July 16, 2001

Written by: Jon Gauslaa

The re-trial against journalist Grigory Pasko did indeed start in Vladivostok on July 11. Below follows a summary of the events of the first three days of the trial.

The first three days of the trial has develloped more or less as expected. Pasko himself is glad that the trial finally has started. – I want this to be over and I am convinced of our victory, he said at the end of the first day in court.

July 11 – Court summons 35 new witnesses

The Court was set at 10 AM by presiding judge, lieutenant colonel Dmitry Kuvschinnikov. In contrast to Pasko’s first trial, the judge and the two assessors, Babich and Morozov, wore black robes instead of military uniforms. Although the trial will be conducted behind closed doors, journalists were allowed in the courtroom for initial proceedings.

The judge asked Pasko if he had any objections concerning the Court’s two lay assessors, Babich and Morozov. Pasko declared that he had no objections as such, although he expressed his doubts concerning the independence of the military court.

Pasko filed two petitions regarding the interrogation of the Commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy, Mr. Kuroeev and the returning of various documents that were confiscated at the search of his flat in November 1997. Both petitions were refused. Defender Ivan Pavlov was more successful with a petition requesting access to the results of the FSB’s investigation regarding a possible criminal case regarding Japanese citizens Nasu Hirouki and Takau Dzun and Russian citizens working for the “NHK” TV-company, as this petition was satisfied.

The Court then withdraw and returned some minutes later announcing a decision about summoning 35 new witnesses; 32 Russians and three Japanese (of which two are from the Vladivostok bureau of “NHK” and one from the newspaper Asahi). It also ordered two expert evaluations, so that the demands of the verdict of the Military Supreme Court of November 21, 2000 could be fulfilled. The first evaluation shall deal with the FSB’s wiretap recordings of Pasko’s phone. The second, comprising experts from the Russian ministries of Defence, Foreign Affairs, and Nuclear Energy, shall determine whether or not there are state secrets in the documents seized at Pasko’s flat.

After having announced these decisions the Court declared that the rest of the trial would be conducted behind closed doors, and asked the representatives of the press to leave.

The trial continued with prosecutor Aleksandr Kondakov reading the indictment. His mimicry seemed to suggest that even he had some problems with understanding what he was reading. When being asked by the Court if he understood the indictment, Pasko replied that he did not and added that his journalistic activity was not a crime.

July 12 – the prosecutor gets a reprimand

The Court started to go through the case files. Among the documents that were examined were the decisions regarding the recordings of Pasko’s phone-conversations and the court-decision allowing the FSB to carry out various investigative actions. While the defence made some comments regarding these documents, the prosecutor kept silence. He did, however, object when the defence attracted the Court’s attention to the fact that the decision about opening the criminal case against Pasko had been backdated from November 21 to November 20, 1997. The prosecutor claimed that this was purely a technical mistake, while the Court declared that this circumstance was obvious and that it did not demand any extra proofs or investigation.

The Court also satisfied petitions from Pasko regarding the exclusion of some documents from the case, and from Pavlov regarding a number of unclear circumstances in the files of the search at Pasko’s flat. Pavlov requested that all the participants of the search should be questioned as witnesses. The prosecutor argued that it would be enough to question one of the participants, but the Court agreed with the defence that all participants should be questioned.

Pavlov also made a declaration regarding the fact that the investigation group was created before the criminal case was launched, which is illegal. The prosecutor did not object, although this could mean that most of the evidence of the case would have to be excluded according to Russian law (Article 50 (2) of the Constitution and Article 69 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Code).

In general the defense seemed to have a rather good second day in Court. A little extra spice was perhaps added when the prosecutor was warned by the Judge for being too late back after the lunch break…

July 13 – more experts needed

The Court examined the report of the documents and objects that were confiscated at the search of Pasko’s flat. Pasko pointed at certain selfcontradictions in the report, particularly the fact that the number of documents that had been examined after the search was higher than the number of documents than had been confiscated at the search.

He also filed a petition regarding the Court’s decision of July 20, 1999 regarding the falsification of the evidence of the case. As a reply to this, the Court announced the content of the files it had obtained from the FSB and the Prosecutor’s Office, according to which the investigator Egorkin had received a “strict reprimand” for falsifying the evidence. However, no criminal case had been launched against him or others, because it could not be estabished that their actions had been carried out deliberately.

The defence then declared a statement concerning the infringements made by the investigation, while composing the case files. The prosecutor seemed to misunderstand the claims of the defense, as he protested against arguments that the defense had not used. The prosecutor also asked Pasko if he could tell which of the documents mentioned in the report of the search at his flat, that were his and which were not. Pasko saw no reason to answer, since the Court had yet to examine the documents.

After this Ivan Pavlov paid attention to the report of the additional examination of the documents. He pointed out that the personal data of the assessors were written with ink of a different color that the rest of the report and thus, seems to have been made after the composing of the report itself. He demanded that it should be carried out a graphic expert evaluation in order to clarify this. Although the prosecutor strongly objected, the Court agreed with Pavlov that the said expert evaluation had to be carried out.

Background – Pasko case

Grigory Pasko was arrested in Vladivostok in November 1997. The FSB accused him of espionage, claiming that he had handed over to the Japanese TV-channel NHK “secret” information on nuclear safety issues in the Pacific Fleet. Amnesty International adopted Pasko as a prisoner of conscience in February 1999 (AI Index EUR 46/07/99). In July 1999, the Court of the Pacific Fleet acquitted him of espionage, but found him guilty of ‘abuse of official authority’. Pasko was sentenced to three years, but released under an amnesty since he had spent 20 months in custody. The Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court cancelled the acquittal on November 21, 2000, and returned the case to the Vladivostok Court, for a new evaluation of the charges of espionage.

The re-trial was originally scheduled for March 22, 2001, but was later postponed to June 4 and June 20 before it finally got under way on July 11. It is reason to believe that it will take at least three months to reach a verdict.