Amnesty adopts Pasko

Amnesty International has adopted Grigory Pasko as a prisoner of conscience. The Russian journalist and environmentalist was on Christmas Day 2001 convicted by the Pacific Fleet Court in Vladivostok to four years in a labour camp for treason through espionage. Nine of the 10 charges against Pasko were dismissed, but he was found guilty of having intended to pass to Japanese journalist Tadashi Okano information that could have weakened the battle readiness of the Pacific Fleet. The verdict is based on the secret military decree 055:96.


A political reprisal

— The prosecution of Grigory Pasko appears motivated by political reprisal for exposing the practice of dumping nuclear waste into the sea. The case appears to be a clear breach of national and international norms protecting freedom of expression that the Russian State is obliged to uphold, Amnesty International said in a press release dated January 7, 2002.


The basis for the organisation’s statement is that Pasko in 1993 filmed a Russian navy tanker dumping radioactive waste and ammunition in the Sea of Japan. In this film and a series of articles, he showed the threat to the environment caused by ships from Russia’s decaying Pacific Fleet, including nuclear submarines.


— The conviction of Pasko for his reporting activities is a violation of his right to freedom of expression, Amnesty International said. The organisation added that the conviction chills legitimate inquiry into matters of public interest, and called for the conviction to be quashed and for Pasko’s immediate release.


Amnesty International also expressed concern that the conviction was secured through the use of the secret decree 055:96 of the Russian Ministry of Defence. — This defies a November 2001 ruling by the Russian Supreme Court to the effect that the constitution forbids the use of secret decrees in criminal cases, the organisation said.


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Grigory Pasko was arrested on November 20, 1997. At the end of a six-month closed trial in the Pacific Fleet Court in Vladivostok he was acquitted of treason through espionage on July 20, 1999, but pronounced guilty of abusing his official position. Amnesty monitored the case closely, and expressed serious concerns about the fairness of that trial, and about the impartiality and independence of the court. Pasko was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for misusing his official position, but was released on a general amnesty.


Both sides appealed the 1999-verdict. In November 2000 the Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court cancelled the verdict, and sent the case back for a new trial at the Pacific Fleet Court. After several postponements, the trial started again on July 11, 2001 and ended with Pasko being sentenced to four years of hard labour on Christmas Day 2001. Also this decision has been appealed by both sides.

Jon Gauslaa