— We are here to support our Russian colleagues in attempting to free Grigory Pasko, and to halt what seems to be an increasingly heavy-handed attempt to crush the development of a free press in Russia, said Terry Anderson, honorary co-chairman of the New York based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), at a press conference in Moscow last Friday.
Pasko hangs on
Together with CPJ Europe program co-ordinator Alex Lupis, and CPJ Europe researcher Olga Tarasov, Anderson met both Pasko supporters and government officials in Vladivostok early last week. The delegation was not allowed to meet Pasko himself. According to informed sources the reporter is however, hanging on. His prison-conditions have improved significantly since the chairman of the Upper House of the Russian State Duma, Sergei Mironov, engaged himself in Pasko’s case in early January.
In Moscow the CPJ delegation met Aleksandr Tkachenko, head of the PEN Center in Moscow; Naum Nim, editor-in-chief of the Index on Censorship; and Anatoly Pyshkin, one of Pasko’s attorneys. The delegation also met Grigory Yavlinsky and Boris Nemtsov, respectively the heads of the liberal Yabloko faction and the Union of Right Forces faction in the State Duma; and Dmitry Muratov, editor of one of Russia’s remaining independent newspapers Novaya Gazeta, which has published several of Pasko’s articles.
The discussions focused on deteriorating press freedom conditions in Russia and Pasko’s pending appeal with the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court.
Date for appeal case not set
No date has been set for the hearing of the appeal, but at a seminar in St. Petersburg on March 3, Anatoly Pyshkin said that he expected the appeal to be heard in late April or early May. Mr. Pyshkin added that he did not dare to predict the outcome of the hearing, although he was confident that his client has a strong case from the legal point of view. — This is however, Russia, he said with an enigmatic smile.
In February, the Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court cancelled article 70 of decree 010:90 and the whole decree 055:96 of the Russian Ministry of Defence. Both normative acts were used as parts of the legal basis for Pasko’s conviction. The decisions has however, had no short-time significance for the case, since they have both been appealed by the Ministry of Defence. Also the defence has appealed the decision on decree 055:96, due to its unclearness regarding from which date the decree is cancelled.
Meanwhile, what seems to be a campaign against Pasko on the Kremlin controlled ORT TV-station continues. Recently a second episode about Pasko was sent under the vignette ‘the citizen and the law’, with the expressed ambition to present the ‘truth’ about the case. This ambition was however not fulfilled, and the program-makers’ tight connections with the FSB were visible both from their seemingly unlimited access to the FSB’s ‘secret’ film-archives and the number of anonymous FSB-officers taking part in the program.
Grigory Pasko was arrested on November 20, 1997. He was acquitted by the Pacific Fleet Court in Vladivostok of treason through espionage on July 20, 1999, but sentenced to a three-year imprisonment for misusing his position and released on a general amnesty. Both sides appealed the verdict. In November 2000 the Military Supreme Court cancelled the verdict, and sent the case back for a new trial at the Pacific Fleet Court. The re-trial started on July 11, 2001 and ended on December 25, with Pasko being convicted to four years of hard labour for treason and taken into custody. The verdict is appealed again by both sides.