On July 23, the Court of the Pacific Fleet in Vladivostok started to question the witnesses in the case against journalist Grigory Pasko who is accused of treason through espionage. According to the prosecution, Pasko has disclosed state secrets in several of his articles about radioactive safety issues in the Russian Pacific Fleet.
No state secrets
So far approximately 15 witnesses have testified. Although they all have been called by the prosecution, none of them have confirmed Pasko’s guilt. On the contrary, several witnesses have said that the articles Pasko wrote were not related to state secrets.
Pacific Fleet Rear Admiral Alexander Konev, did, for instance, say that he had given Pasko clearance to write the articles because the topics were not classified. Anatoly Fomin, who accompanied Pasko on an assignment to a classified naval facility, which inspired one of the articles considered by the Court, testified that they did not have access to any military secrets on that trip and that six naval and security officers escorted them around the facility. Also Viktor Ryzhkov, former chief of the Pacific Fleet press centre, said that Pasko’s articles were not related to national security issues.
A fair trial?
On a press conference held last week the defence said that the re-trial against Pasko, which is closed to journalists and the public, so far has been fairer than the first trial. – During the first trial, the judge automatically rejected defence motions, and prosecutors would stand up and shout during the proceedings, defence attorney Anatoly Pyshkin said. – This time the Court seems to be more concerned about putting things right, he added.
The defence also said that it has filed a number of motions to the Court, pointing out several new flaws in the case. One of the worst flaws is that a team of investigators started its work without proper authorisation. According to Russian law, the evidence collected by this team should be voided, which would remove most of the basis for the case against Pasko.
Grigory Pasko was arrested in November 1997 on charges of treason through espionage. He was acquitted of espionage in July 1999, but found guilty of abuse of office and immediately freed under a general amnesty. Seeking a full acquittal, Pasko appealed the verdict, but so did the prosecution, insisting he was a spy. The Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court cancelled the verdict in November 2000, and sent the case back to Vladivostok for a re-trial. After several postponements, the re-trial started on July 11, 2001 and is expected to continue for at least three months.