Wind blowing in Pasko’s direction?

Publish date: December 22, 2001

Written by: Jon Gauslaa

Grigory Pasko has many supporters. Surprisingly, one of them seems to be Sergei Mironov, the new leader of the Upper House of the Russian Parliament.

On December 20, Sergei Mironov, leader of the Upper House of the Russian Parliament, (the Federation Council), unexpectedly supported Grigory Pasko, who stands trial in Vladivostok facing nine years of hard labour if he gets convicted on treason charges.

Narrow minded departments
In an interview with Izvestya, Mironov said that the origin of the Pasko-case was the lacks of the Russian legislation regarding environmental protection. – The system for taking care of the environmental safety is organised through various departments, which executes their duties in separate ways. These narrow-minded departmental forces often claim that their interests are similar with the interests of the nation, he said.

The leader of the Federation council used the Pasko-case to exemplify what he was talking about. – Pasko is accused for having published information that pertains to state secrets. But what kind of secrets? The charges are based on the infamous decree 055 of the Ministry of Defence, and not on federal laws, Mironov said.

He added that the decree is illegal and has to be abolished according to the Supreme Court ruling of November 6. – Yet our Courts now evaluate the Pasko-case for the second time, and the prosecutor has asked for nine years of imprisonment under severe conditions. And look at his arguments! He claims that Pasko’s actions are particularly inadmissible because we are still in war with Japan! – said Mironov.

– I will urge Grigory Mikhailovich to request the President for pardon if he gets any kind of conviction and I will support such a request, said Mironov, who is said to have close connections with President Putin. – To prove his innocence once more, through ‘a Hell of appeals’ is as far as I am concerned not necessary, Mironov added. – The world has long ago understood who is right and who is guilty in this case.

Prosecution brought to its knees
Mironov’s statements are a positive sign, although his mentioning of the possibility of pardoning Pasko, may give them a flavour of compromise: Pasko gets acquitted of treason, but gets a minor conviction, and is then invited to request the President for pardon.

Still, the fact that he focuses so much on the illegal use of decree 055:96 indicates that the wind may blow in Pasko’s direction. Also other signs might indicate this. A few days ago, the new head of the FSB in the Russian Far East gave a press conference where he said that Pasko’s defence "had brought the prosecution to its knees, by capitalising on the mistakes of the investigation".

Although his statements had the undertone that this was not fair play by the defence, they were still light-years away from the statements of various FSB-officials throughout the case against Aleksandr Nikitin. On December 17, 1996, the then FSB-chief Nikolai Kovaliov for instance said that Nikitin was "a Canadian spy". And on February 24, 1998 the then head of the St. Petersburg FSB, Viktor Cherkesov, said on TV that "Nikitin is a spy and we will have no problems proving it."

Nikitin was acquitted of charges of treason through espionage by the St. Petersburg City Court on December 29, 1999. The decision was later confirmed by the Russian Supreme Court and by the Presidium of the Supreme Court. Less than 72 hours from now, we will know if the Pacific Fleet Court will dare to take the same step in the Pasko-case.

Grigory Pasko was arrested on November 20, 1997 and charged with espionage on behalf of the Japanese TV-channel NHK. He was acquitted in July 1999, but convicted of ‘abuse of official authority’ and freed under an amnesty. Seeking a full acquittal, Pasko appealed,
but so did the prosecution, insisting he was a spy. On November 21, 2000 the Supreme Court sent the case back for a re-trial at the Pacific Fleet Court. The re-trial started on July 11, 2001, and the Court will pronounce its verdict on December 25.