Supreme Court Upholds Pasko Treason Sentence

Publish date: June 25, 2002

Written by: Charles Digges

In a major upset for environmental and human rights activists worldwide, Russia’s Supreme Court’s military collegium Tuesday upheld a treason verdict against Vladivostok-based military journalist and environmental whistle-blower Grigory Pasko.

The appeal was Pasko’s last chance to avoid spending the next couple of years in one of Russia’s crumbling, Soviet-era work camps for the crime of bringing to light the brewing nuclear disaster represented by the Russian Navy’s aging Pacific Fleet and its negligent waste disposal practices.

Calling for the hearings to be made public, Pasko legal team member Genry Reznik said the defence was "convinced that there is nothing secret involved in this case, and we are not going to reveal anything that the court could describe as state secrets."

However, military prosecutor Igor Murashkin insisted the hearings should be held behind closed doors, saying that "issues relating to state secrets could be mentioned during the hearings."

Presiding Judge Yury Parkhomchuk decided in favor of Murashkin, and some 70 journalists, observers and western diplomats were evacuated from the courtroom.

Pasko, who is jailed in Vladivostok, was not present for the hearing on the decision of his three lawyers because of the long train journey his attendance would have entailed. The court also ruled that Alexander Tkachenko, president of the Russian PEN Club, which defends media rights, could attend the hearings with the lawyers as a representative of civil society.


Next steps
Bellona and other environmental and human rights groups Tuesday vowed to take the case to the European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg, but even that, according to Bellona’s Jon Gauslaa, is cold comfort.

“The court there is backed up for six to seven years, mostly with due process cases like this,” he said Tuesday. “In fact, not one case from Russia has yet been heard there.”

Mariana Katzarova of Amnesty International – which has proclaimed Pasko Russia’s third Prisoner of Conscience since Andrei Sakharov and Bellona’s Alexander Nikitin – said Amnesty will “continue to fight for Pasko’s unconditional release from prison.”

“Today’s decision puts into question the PR we hear about judicial reform in Russia,” she said.

Pasko’s lawyer Reznik said: “We will get a probing look at this verdict.”

“The verdict is built on assumptions, and these assumptions require an ironic evaluation – in fact, this would all be considered a farce if Pasko were not sitting in jail now.”

As for Pasko, despite his incarceration, he is to edit a journal on ecology and law that will publish five issues this year, Nikitin said.

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