The Pasko trial continues. Below follows a survey over the events of its 7th week, in which several witnesses took the stand and the Court sent the three Bellona-reports on nuclear pollution over to military experts.
Ravil Sangishev, vice-chief of the Pacific Fleet’s technical base for missiles, was the first witness to be interrogated on August 21. – Back in 1997 he was the senior engineer of the base, Pasko said after the court session. – I came there together with admiral Moiseyenko, and after our departure Sangishev sent a report to the FSB where he claimed that I had been interested in military secrets. However, when the FSB questioned him, he said the opposite and that we had been talking about ecological issues.
In Court, Sangishev said that Pasko had brought a questionnaire that he had obtained from Greenpeace, regarding a Russian proposal on the utilization of liquid missile fuel. Pasko had asked him some questions from the questionnaire, but he had not been able to answer.
The charges describe this episode as an attempt from Pasko to get hold of state secrets for the subsequent transfer to the Japanese TV-channel “NHK”. However, the charges do not mention that Russian authorities have answered similar questions when foreign official representatives have asked them. Thus, Sangishev’s testimony did by no means substantiate the allegation in the charges.
Confiscation of not secret documents
Customs officers Khrustalev and Rekunov were also interrogated on August 21. While the latter only said that he was a witness to the seizure of Pasko’s documents at Vladivostok airport on November 13, 1997, the former said that he had asked Pasko to show his documents. Then it was decided to keep them ‘for storage’ while Pasko was in Japan. Khrustalev, who had said to Pasko that the documents were secret, was not aware of the fact that the experts later had acknowledged that the documents were not secret.
FSB-officer Shirshov, who also participated in the seizure of Pasko’s not-secret documents, said that he had been instructed by the FSB-management to search all passengers that were flying to Japan that day. When the lawyers asked him who had given the order to take the documents, he said that the customers had done it on their own initiative. This contradicts the testimony previously given by customs officer Nikolayev, who on August 13 said that it was the FSB-officers who had demanded that the documents were seized.
Shirshlov also admitted that the FSB-personnel who examined Pasko’s luggage, had the possibility to insert whatever they wanted to the envelope where the seized material was contained, since the envelope had been sealed without Pasko’s participation.
The last witness on August 21, FSB-officer Oleg Alekseev was shown the documents that the FSB claims were confiscated at the search of Pasko’s flat on November 21, 1997. Pasko is now charged with having collected these documents for the subsequent transfer to Japan.
Alekseev, who had signed the protocol of the search, confirmed that the documents he was shown were the confiscated ones. Defence attorney Anatoly Pyshkin then asked him to find the documents in the search-protocol’s list of confiscated documents. Alekseev mumbled for 20 minutes before he had to admit that the documents were not mentioned in the protocol. When being asked to explain this, he kept silent. – The FSB has added the documents after the search, commented Aleksandr Tkachenko of the Russian Pen-club who acts as Pasko’s public defender. – We were shocked when we first discovered this falsification, he said.
Bellona reports handed over to experts
On August 22, the Court examined various open sources, which contains the same kinds of information that Pasko is charged with having dealt with. The Court allowed the defence to present a number of books, magazines, reports and other publications. – We began with the three Bellona-reports published in 1994, 1996 and 2001, co-defender Ivan Pavlov said. Although the latter is not translated to Russian, it contains many similar photos as the Pasko case, he said.
After having examined the publications, the Court decided to attach them to the case files, and to hand them over to the experts that will examine whether there are state secrets or not in the materials Pasko is accused with having collected and/or transferred to “NHK”.
The censor’s testimony
On August 23, Mr. Bolshakov, who used to work as a censor for the Pacific Fleet until censorship was abolished in the Soviet Union in the late 1980′ ies, gave his testimony.
The abolition of censorship had apparently not brought many changes to his work. Bolshakov had continued as if nothing had happened. The only difference was that he in stead of the official seal of military censorship had put his personal signature on each page of the Pacific Fleet’s newspaper ‘Boyevaya Vakhta’ [Military Watch]. No article could be published without his permission. Moreover, he observed what was published in the press and kept a record over the journalists that did not agree with his views. When the defence attorneys asked him on what regulations he based his views, he answered sharply. – On my own knowledge and the decrees of the Ministry of Defence.
The attorneys then asked him why he had continued unaffected of the abolition of censorship. – I used my feelings and the demands of my chiefs, he said. Bolshakov admitted that he co-operated with the FSB, and it became clear that the FSB’s interest in Pasko started after Bolshakov had reported that he often had disagreements with him regarding what information that could be published.
Send in the experts
The Court is expected to use the present week to work with the experts from the 8th Department of the Russian General Staff and to hear their opinion regarding the presence of state secrets in the material that allegedly was confiscated at Pasko’s flat. Also several witnesses will be questioned.
Grigory Pasko was arrested on November 21, 1997 on charges of espionage. He was acquitted of espionage on July 20, 1999, but sentenced to three years for ‘abuse of his official authority’. Pasko was then released under a general amnesty, but both sides appealed. Russia’s Military Supreme Court cancelled the verdict on November 22, 2000 and ordered a re-trial at the Court of the Pacific Fleet in Vladivostok. The re-trial started on July 11, 2001. If convicted as charged, Pasko may face up to 20 years of hard labour and the confiscation of all his private property.