There is no crime

Publish date: December 21, 2001

Written by: Jon Gauslaa

The Pacific Fleet Court will on December 25 announce its verdict in the case against Grigory Pasko, who is charged with high treason through espionage. If the Court rules by the law, Pasko should be acquitted.

The re-trial of Grigory Pasko started on July 11, 2001 in the Pacific Fleet Court in Vladivostok. The subsequent proceedings have been considerably delayed by a number of unjustified postponements caused by the prosecution. This has – in violation of Pasko’s right to have the charges against him determined within reasonable time – contributed to the process dragging out for more than four years.

No criminal content
Ivan Pavlov of Pasko’s defence-team, said after concluding his closing speech, that he was sure that Pasko would be acquitted if the Court rules by the law.

Pavlov, who also took part in the defence of Aleksandr Nikitin – who was acquitted on similar charges as Pasko by the Presidium of the Russian Supreme Court on September 13, 2000 after almost five years of proceedings, said that "the trial has proven that the case contains no crime".

The Pasko case and the Nikitin case are similar both in content and in the character of violations done by the Russian security police (the FSB), which investigated the case.

Illegal use of secret military decree
Pasko is accused with collecting and transferring information on the environmental situation in the Russian Pacific Fleet to the Japanese TV Company NHK. The disputed information is however, available in the public domain.

Moreover, the charges are based on an expert evaluation of various documents that were confiscated from Pasko, of which ten contains state secrets according to the experts. This allegation is based on secret decree 055:96 of the Ministry of Defence.

The use of the decree as the basis for the case violates article 15 (3) of the Russian Constitution, according to which unpublished normative acts can not be used for prosecuting a person.

In addition the Russian Supreme Court declared on November 6, 2001 the decree as "illegal and invalid" because it was not registered in accordance with the law. This ruling has reached legal force, but the prosecutor still insists to base his charges on the decree.

95% of the evidence gathered illegally
Almost 95% of the ‘evidence’ in the case are gathered illegally. No protocol was kept over what was confiscated at the search of Pasko’s flat in November 1997, and neither Pasko nor any other persons representing him were present in the room where the investigators worked. Thus, they had every possibility to insert what they wanted to the heap of ‘confiscated evidence’.

The above-mentioned violates several provision of the Russian Criminal Procedure Code. According to Article 50 (2) of the Russian Constitution all evidence that is obtained in violation with the law should be excluded from the case.

Some evidence is also downright falsified. At the first Pasko-trial in 1999, the Court made a separate decision on this issue, addressed towards the FSB and the prosecutor’s office. One investigator was reprimanded, but the false evidence was not removed from the case.

Moreover, throughout the trial in Vladivostok, several witnesses have claimed that they were pressed by the FSB to testify against Pasko.

Half of the charges dismissed
Even the prosecutor seems to realise that he has a week case. In his closing speech he dismissed the charges related to five of the ten documents Pasko was originally charged with.

Besides, regarding four of the remaining five documents, the prosecutor changed the qualification of Pasko’s actions from claiming that he had transferred them to the Japanese, to claiming that he had kept the documents at his flat "with the intention to transfer them". The prosecution is however not even close to prove that this was Pasko’s intention.

The prosecution has neither proven that the last document was transferred. The only basis for this allegation is that a witness said that he at the NHK-office in Vladivostok saw a document "similar" to a document that was confiscated at Pasko’s flat. However, the witness made his observation at the NHK-office in October 1997, while the document was allegedly confiscated from Pasko in November 1997…

Prosecutor demands nine years
Despise the weaknesses of his case, the prosecutor still asked the Court to convict Pasko to nine years of hard labour. This is three years below the minimum penalty for treason through espionage. The reason for the prosecutor’s "mildness" is that it had not been established that Pasko’s actions had led to any damage.

The prosecutor also admitted that some "violations" had occurred in the case. He did however, ask the Court to leave them out of account since they were made by inexperienced investigators, who never before had worked with similar cases.

– Besides, the case has also aggravating circumstances, said the prosecutor and focused particularly on "the fact" that there still is an official state of war between Russia and Japan, since no peace treaty after WW II have been signed.

Court under pressure?
Pasko’s defence asked for a full acquittal, and was sure that Pasko would be acquitted if the Court rules by the law. Ivan Pavlov had however, still his doubts regarding the outcome of the case.

– The Court has handled the case adequately, but we are uncertain whether it will be allowed to base its decision on the law or if it have to give in for FSB-pressure, Pavlov said. – We have noticed throughout the last part of the trial that the Court have been subject to pressure, and the date chosen for the announcement of the verdict – Christmas Day – does not seem like a coincidence, he said.

Whether the Court will rule by the law or not should be known on December 25, around 3 PM local time (5 AM GMT). Bellona web hopes to be able to announce the outcome of the case as soon as possible after that.

Grigory Pasko was an investigative reporter with "Boyevaya Vakhta", a newspaper run by the Pacific Fleet. He was arrested in November 1997 and charged with high treason. He spent twenty 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.