Bellona journalist’s article shortlisted for Amnesty International Global Award

9cba820771a22eb88d974920a0a14766.jpeg

In front of me lays a book, Grigory Pasko is smiling on its cover. Young, handsome, in the uniform of a commander. The book is called “We’re Singing to the Deaf”. It was written in the cells of the Vladivostok house of detention, where he had spent long twenty months. While reading it, I feel ashamed and it hurts me that I hadn’t read this book before my trip to Primorye county. Having spent almost eight months in an one-man cell, he wrote the following: “I will approach this border of the human consciousness, where the unconscious begins. And I’ll feel the terrible wish to cross this border. Every day, coming from conclusions to cries, from cries to lows, from lows to physical pain in my head and breast, confusing between days and nights, I ordered myself: don’t surrender.” If I had only read this small volume before my departure to Vladivostok, if I had… Many of my reports from the court sessions would be different. Now Grigory is imprisoned in a one-man cell again. And that hurts. Like a blunt needle, stuck in the heart, aching.

A suffocated cry
Grigory called Vladivostok Gadyukino (“Village of Snakes”) in his book. He was feeling suffocated there. Indeed, it’s a very peculiar city at the edge of the country. Gray masses of warships at the piers. A mark of neglect on them. They will die near the berth. Hills mutilated by boxes of houses. Powerful explosions, which begin the day. Newcomers turn round uneasily. But the inhabitants reassure them: don’t be afraid, it’s the arsenal that exploded accidentally eight years ago. It was located inside the city boundaries. And the engineers are still blasting the scattered mines and the shells. The city is dirty, filthy, the streets are full with waifs and strays, refugees, beggars. And with luxurious Jeeps driven by short-haired bulls.

It was the first day of the trial when the prosecutor, Colonel of Justice Alexandr Kondakov, started reciting the indictment of the investigation, and the lawyers clearly understood that the case against Pasko was started by KGB as early as in 1992. The appearance of the new type of journalists, like Grigory, was for them like a bolt from the blue — how dared he write like this!.. And soon an unexpected thing was said at the trial: it was the Pacific Fleet headquarters who had demanded that the military journalist Pasko publish articles on environmental problems of the Fleet no less frequently than twice a month. And Pasko had published 420 articles over seven years. He was the best journalist at the “Boevaya vakhta” “Military watch newspaper. And, in fact, he was the best in Primorye county.

During the eighth day of the trial, reserve commander Anatoly Fomin, formerly a subordinate of Grigory, gave an exact wording:

– It’s a political trial. Pasko’s heart bleeds for the fatherland. And he wrote his articles to solve the environmental problems of the Fleet. It was a cry of his heart, but it was suffocated.

Prosecutor threatens
After every session of the court, I interviewed the witnesses, lawyers, Grigory himself, quickly wrote reports and sent them to the Norwegian environmental Bellona Foundation and the Moscow based magazine “Index – Dossier on the Censorship”. These reports were carefully studied not only by environmentalists and human rights defenders – on the 20th day of the trial, prosecutor Kondakov, blandly smiling, told me:

– You still can’t adapt to the new climate? No, you won’t live to see the end of the trial in our climate, you won’t live that long.

And this way he “hinted-threatened” not only to me, but also to Pasko’s lawyer Ivan Pavlov for his being too frank with the journalists.

People shouldn’t know about this
One day of the trial, answering to the court’s inquiry, the technical administration of the Pacific Fleet presented the detailed information about radioactive contamination of the territory of a coast technical base. The FSB accused Grigory of having illegally breached the territory of the base and for handing a sketch of it to Japanese journalists. The data about radioactive dirt at the base were horrible: some radionuclids exceeded the norm 30 thousand times. The judge read out the inquiry of the Vladivostok Duma elected council, local parliament of Vladivostok. (translator’s notice) to the Pacific Fleet Headquarters, asking what was happening with the spent nuclear fuel, with the decommissioned submarines, and with the liquid radioactive waste. One vice-admiral answered simply: the data can not be made public. And the Duma washed itself after such a spit and wasn’t so curious anymore.

The testimony of rear-admiral Moiseenko stuck to the memory of the lawyers. He testified that it was he personally, who took journalist Pasko to the coast technical base, that it wasn’t a closed object, and falls within the authority of the international treaties on the strategic arms reduction. Every year the American military visits the base for checks. After Grigory’s articles were published, the base was granted additional funds, the laid up missiles decommissioning increased, and the employees began getting wages.

Experts of the joint staff as the mirror of the Russian officers
In September the experts of the 8th department of the Joint Staff came. It was they who drew the conclusion about the classified status of the documents, which were allegedly withdrawn during the ransack at Grigory’s flat. Now they had again examined the documents for two weeks and made a conclusion, that only part of them were considered classified. The lawyers were meticulously questioning the experts for every item of their conclusion, and often they had noting intelligible to say. Moreover, all their expert evaluations were based on the secret, not officially published decree of the Minister of Defence, No. 055. which was struck down as illegal by a verdict of the Supreme Court. One of the experts, Poryadny, will remain in my memory. Short-haired, well-built, furious. He didn’t look like an officer of the Joint Staff at all. He had an appearance of a typical gangster. During one of the breaks of the court session, we were smoking, standing close together. He began to speak, and I felt as if he had flung mud at me. He told, that all of us, including me, Grigory Pasko, and the lawyers, are spies, CIA agents, homosexuals, and that we sold ourselves for cigarettes. Our pockets are full of dollars. I began to retort, citing as an example the case of Nikitin.

-Nikitin, – Poryadny squinted darkly, – I would shoot this scumbag with my own hands!

At the beginning of the last century the Tsarist government had one of the terrorists judged and sentenced to death. The executioner was never found. In the whole vast empire. The Joint Staff officer Poryadny is ready to shoot.

1d8dbd2491cc22a36dc8caaf31e4f01f.jpeg

The last card
By the end of October 54 witnesses had been questioned. Our defense team for Pasko was sure that the judge, Lieutenant Colonel of Justice, Dmitry Kuvshinnikov, was in possession of all the evidence that would have acquitted Girgory. Moreover, he had time to make certain that the whole case was put-up – that FSB had forged signatures in procedural documents, had done away with audio-tapes of Grigory’s phone conversations with the Japanese journalists, and with many other documents; that even in the written transcripts of his phone conversations, there was no evidence of his guilt. Kuvshinnikov also had time to see that accusation and the experts’ evaluation were based on the two secret decrees of the Minister of Defense.

The forty-sixth day of the trial began. At 10 o’clock sharp, admiral, the first deputy commander-in-chief of the Navy, Zakharenko, grandly proceeded into the hall. He was the 55th witness. Later he left the hall, cheerfully humming the “Katyusha” melody. Lawyer Anatoly Pyshkin commented:

-The admiral came to the point of uttering an absurdity – that in the notes, which Pasko made during the debriefing of the military exercises, and which were put on one sheet of paper of normal size, there was the plan of the commander-in-chief of the Navy about deployment of the strategic forces of the Navy, and this plan was connected with carrying out the missions, set by the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, the President of Russia. Many officers, even admirals had seen these notes many times in four years, the notes were twice examined by the experts of the 8th department of the Joint Staff, and no one detected anything like that. And also Zakharenko claimed, that when he read an article in a newspaper, that Pasko was arrested, he decided to carry out reforms at the Fleet right away. And he transferred several units, ships, and submarines. But it’s a shame for the deputy commander-in-chief of the Fleet: He made these decisions based on an article in a newspaper, without sending for the chief of FSB of the Navy, the Navy prosecutor, without listening to the assistants and the department-commanders.

This court is a show trial
And the last, the 56th, day of the trial came. The day of the announcement of the verdict. The corridors and the stairs were full of stalwart naval infantrymen. Grigory’s wife Galina asked me to stand near her during the reading of the verdict, but I stupidly refused, because I wouldn’t be able to make photos then. She was afraid she might faint. It was like at the first trial. Judge Kuvshinnikov finished reading the verdict. I saw Grigory with a pale face take off his watch and lie it at the table. The director, who staged this court show, did do his best. In July, 1999 Grigory was released from the defendant’s cage, with the handcuffs taken away. Now – they brought him into the cage, giving the TV-men an opportunity to film this picture. With the handcuffs on, he was brought out from the hall to the guardhouse. Lawyer Ivan Pavlov followed the officers and in ten minutes returned to the hall. He silently put Grigory’s cravat on the table. And this cravat was cutting the heart. That’s the way to the prison hell began for him again.

The verdict must be cancelled
Lawyer Ivan Pavlov commented on the verdict as such:

During four years Grigory Pasko stood accused of having collected, kept and handed over to the Japanese journalists ten documents, containing state secrets. That was sixty episodes, which the investigation considered to be proven. But even the military court admitted in the verdict, that the accusation was for 98% simply a soap bubble. The court hadn’t enough courage to admit it for 100%… Now about the matter, in which Pasko was found guilty. Hardly had the ink on the verdict dried out, when the FSB, in the person of the omnipresent general Zdanovich hurried to claim, Pasko was proven to be guilty of having transferred secrets to the Japanese. But it’s a lie, no word of Zdanovich can be trusted. There was only one accusation of collecting and keeping one object with the intention of handing to a Japanese journalist, which was claimed by the experts of the 8th department of the Joint Staff to be secret.

According to the verdict, Grigory Pasko is guilty of his presence at the debriefing of the military exercises in the headquarters of the Pacific Fleet. But he was a journalist of the Fleet newspaper, and it was his duty to cover combat training of the Fleet. Grigory explained to the court that he was present at the debriefing and made notes to write an article for the newspaper. But the court didn’t listen to him, and made, as Ivan Pavlov says, absolutely unfounded and groundless conclusion that Pasko made the notes to hand them over to the Japanese journalist Tadashi Okano. The notes were made on September 11th, more than two months passed before the arrest, while Pasko didn’t even try to hand a single sheet of paper to the Japanese journalist. He didn’t take it with him when he went to Japan. There is no evidence of Grigory’s intention to hand it to the Japanese journalist, though he was under surveillance of FSB, it tracked his every step, made records of all his phone calls, of all the conversations in his flat. The court motivated its conclusion about the illegal purpose by the fact that Pasko had contacts with this Japanese journalist and they communicated unclassified environmental information. And from these two absolutely harmless premises the court made a conclusion, that Pasko had an opportunity to hand to the Japanese journalist among other information also secrets.

The lawyers are firmly convinced that the prosecutor has no evidences. In their appeal to the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court they write that the verdict referred to the provisions of the secret decree of the Minister of Defence no. 055, which was disaffirmed by a ruling of the Supreme Court. And there was used another secret decree of the Minister of Defence no. 010, written in 1990, when USSR was still alive. The defence team writes in the appeal, that the verdict was based on provisions of the out-dated version of the Law on the State Secret, which violate the Constitution. That in the verdict the court transgressed the limits of the produced accusation. That the court based its verdict on the evidence received in violation of the laws. The lawyers also write, that in the Pasko’s notes there are no secret data, even were the decree no. 055 applied here.

Speaker Mironov supports Pasko
Sergey Mironov spoke in his interview in the Izvestia in support of the journalist four days before the verdict was pronounced. The speaker said that the notorious MoD decree no.055 shouldn’t be applied in the case, and he advised Grigory Pasko to appeal the President for pardon, should the accusatory verdict be made. And the speaker was even ready to support such appeal personally. In his letter to the speaker, Pasko answered: “thank you for your willingness to help, but I won’t ask for any pardon.” On January, 9th during his visit to Saint-Petersburg, Mironov decided to meet Pasko’s lawyer Ivan Pavlov and asked him to produce the procedural documents, and said, that he was ready to sign a personal bail to help Pasko have his preventive punishment changed. The environmentalists perceived the speaker’s statements in two ways: many of them decided that it was a step, co-ordinated with Putin. Another PR action – pardon for the convicted journalist. Like it was with Edmund Pope. The other part of the environmentalists perceived interference of the third person as an indication, that the Federation Council is now presided by the man who can get moving forward the skidding cart of the judicial reform.

Putin looked incompetent
Do you remember, how at the era of Yeltsin his advisers, press secretaries, ministers usually came to his help, when he permitted himself to speak in some very unexpected style or perspective? Putin hasn’t allowed such things so far. And all of a sudden on his January 15th press conference in Paris, asking on a question about the Pasko case, the President said: “It’s a pure legal problem. Frankly speaking, I’m not deep in it. I only know, that Mr. Pasko is accused of handing classified documents to representatives of a foreign state for some reward. This fact isn’t called into question by anybody, even by his lawyers. But I find it difficult to speak about details, I simply don’t know. But the very matter of this case may hardly be of interest of the country.” Russian Information Agency “Novosti” presented this news as if the President was ready to pardon Pasko, as if the episode of handing over classified documents is proven. The lawyers Anatoly Pyshkin and Ivan Pavlov were outraged, for Pasko that’s a heavy blow: the head of the country says, that the fact of “handing over” is proven. Look, how did Putin secure himself: “I’m not deep in this case, can’t speak about details, the details are hardly of interest of the country.” But in the same time the guarantor of the Constitution introduce into the public opinion the thought, favourable to FSB: the journalist handed the secrets over to the representatives of a foreign country for some reward, and this fact isn’t challenged by his lawyers. If this way Putin was made out incompetent by his former colleagues, – the President met Nikolay Patrushev before his departure to France, – then it means that FSB manipulates the President, palming him off with misinformation. But if that’s collusion made by Putin, FSB and the military prosecutor office, then it’s very bad. And it means only beginning of such coordinated operations.

What has the trial shown?
In opinion of lawyer Anatoly Pyshkin, the trial has shown that there is a great number of problems accumulated in the court mechanism itself. It needs urgent reforms. The court must be made independent, so that it would be governed only by the Constitution and laws. The Pasko case has also shown, that the prosecutor’s office needs reforms. The prosecutor’s office in its today state is useless to Russia. It’s a huge, clumsy machine, which serves only itself and to the people at the helm, performing their orders only. This court trial has shown the necessity to reform the investigating agencies. Prosecutor Office, Ministry of Internal Affairs, FSB, Frontier Guards and Fiscal Police should be deprived of the right of investigation, there must be only one investigative body. And further specialists should be engaged in different categories of the cases. But the main thing: there must be no investigation like today – it’s a cudgel to make short work of everyone.

The trial against journalist Pasko did clearly show, that today FSB is not under control of the state, that it doesn’t submit to anybody. The norms, proclaimed in the Law on FSB are not supported by any mechanism and instruments to control this organisation. Today FSB is almost the only body, which may not care about the rulings and demands of the court. During the trial, the court did repeatedly request documents to shed light on this case, on the story of its appearing. But FSB kept answering: we can not bring the documents forward! The Law on FSB stipulates that President, the Duma, Prosecutor Office and court can control this body. Nothing like this in reality!

«They are deifying Felix the founder of KGB, “Iron Felix” Dzerzhinsky. (translator’s notice). They will restore the monument to him at Lubyanka. They’re tenacious of life. They don’t sink, like shit or wood doesn’t sink. They’re numerous. Much more, than you think, or the decree about them mentions. They’re not coming back from the year 1937: they have already come back. Look around and you’ll see them, the wooden children of the Iron Felix”. Grigory Pasko, from the book “We’re singing to the deaf”.