Pasko sent back to prison

Publish date: December 25, 2001

Written by: Igor Kudrik

The military court in Vladivostok finds Grigory Pasko guilty of high treason. The decision is based on secret military decree recently declared as illegal and invalid by the Russian Supreme Court.

Grigory Pasko was convicted for four years in labour camp on high treason charges on December 25th. The Pacific Fleet Military Court in Vladivostok said in the verdict that Pasko had the intention to pass over to a Japanese journalist a classified document. The 20 months he has earlier spent in custody reduce the overall term down to two years and four months.

The document in question were handwritten notes Pasko made at a meeting of the Military Council of the Pacific Fleet. Pasko was present there as a reporter from Pacific Fleet’s newspaper, the Battle Watch, and intended to write an article on this event.

Originally, the charges against Pasko included ten items of allegedly classified information that he, according to the prosecution, intended to pass over to the Japanese journalists. The prosecutor in the case dismissed five of the ten documents Pasko was charged with. The judge today dismissed four more documents leaving only the handwritten notes.

Pasko’s attorneys have already appealed the verdict to the Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court.

Pasko was taken to custody in the courtroom. He will stay in confinement until the appeal is considered in the Supreme Court. It may take as long as one year before the Supreme Court considers the case.

Earlier in the process, a group of experts from the 8th Department of the Defence Ministry said the documents in the Pasko case, including the handwritten notes, contained state secrets. The experts based their findings on secret military decree 055:96, which stipulates information pertaining to the state secrets. The use of the decree as the basis for the case violates article 15 (3) of the Russian Constitution, according to which unpublished normative acts cannot be used for prosecuting a person. In addition the Russian Supreme Court declared on November 6th 2001 the decree as “illegal and invalid” because it was not registered in accordance with the law. This ruling has reached legal force, but it did not deter the court to convict Pasko based on the decree.

Moreover, almost 95% of the ‘evidence’ in the case are gathered illegally, including the part of the case which describes the intention to pass over the handwritten notes.

No appeal for pardon

Prior to the conviction of Grigory Pasko Sergey Mironov, the speaker of the Federation Council, the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, said that Pasko was innocent but, due to unreformed judicial system in Russia, it would be hard to prove the opposite. Mr Mironov ‘advised’ Pasko to appeal the Russian President for pardon, should he be convicted. Mr Mironov was recently appointed by President Putin to head the Federation Council.

Pasko’s defence attorneys said today that Pasko had no plans appealing the Russian President for pardon since he did not consider himself guilty of any crimes. Observers believe that the statement by Mr Mironov was a way-out proposal for Pasko in order not to offend the Russian Security Police, or the FSB.

The head of the FSB in the Russian Pacific Fleet congratulated a week before the conviction of Pasko at the Chekist Day, holyday of the Russian Security Police, his staff with successful completion of the Pasko case. In other words, he knew that Pasko would be convicted beforehand.

The court session today was open for public. But the public was mainly consisting of military personnel in uniforms. An old trick used by the KGB in the Soviet times.

Bellona continues fight for Pasko

Bellona Foundation has been working actively with the Pasko case since it was sent from the Supreme Court in Moscow back to Vladivostok for re-evaluation in the local court in November 2000. Bellona has provided Pasko with experienced defenders, who took part in the defence of Aleksandr Nikitin, and carried out information campaign around the case.

Bellona will continue supporting Grigory Pasko. The immediate plan includes working out a complaint from Pasko to the European Court on Human Rights in Strasbourg, as the conviction of Pasko appears like a clear violation of Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Bellona believes that Pasko is innocent and his conviction is undermining the achievements made in the Nikitin case. Namely that it is illegal to charge a person on the grounds of secret normative acts, which are not in public domain.


Grigory Pasko was an investigative reporter with Boyevaya Vakhta, or the Battle Watch, a newspaper run by the Pacific Fleet. He was arrested in November 1997 and charged with high treason. He spent 20 months in custody, before being acquitted in July 1999. He was however, convicted of abuse of his official authority, but released under an amnesty. The verdict was appealed by both sides. On November 21, 2000, the Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court cancelled the first verdict and sent the case back to a new trial in Vladivostok.

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