Pasko hearing in the European Parliament:
The hearing was arranged by the European Parliament’s Green Group, in order to explain why the imprisoned Russian journalist Grigory Pasko, is its candidate for the EPs yearly Sakharov prize for the Freedom of Thought.
The list of participants included Aleksandr Nikitin, head of Bellona’s St Petersburg Branch; Russian MP and former Human Rights Ombudsman, Sergei Kovalev; Aleksei Simonov of the Moscow-based Glasnost Foundation; French MP Noel Mamere; Matti Wuori, MEP and parliamentary reporter for human rights; and Jon Gauslaa; legal advisor of Bellona Oslo.
Plans to visit Pasko
— Grigory Pasko is a candidate in the true spirit of the Sakharov prize, said the co-chairman of the Green/EFA group in the European Parliament, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, at the start of the hearing.
— He has run into difficulties because of what he has been thinking and what he has expressed.
Cohn-Bendit added that the EPs Committee of Foreign Affairs will address the Russian authorities in order to be able to visit Pasko, who is currently serving a four years bogus espionage-conviction in a labour camp in the Russian Far East.
A repressive trap
Aleksandr Niktitin, who himself spent five years in order to fight off unfounded espionage-charges before he was acquitted in September 2000, said that it is of huge importance that the EP engages itself in the Pasko-case.
— Pasko is not only an isolated and imprisoned individual, his situation is symptomatic for the recent development in Russia, Nikitin said. Like myself, Pasko was prosecuted on the basis of secret laws. And there are several others. — The Russian system of secret laws is a repressive trap that any thinking individual might be caught in.
Russia going backwards
Sergei Kovaliev focused on the fact that Pasko has kept his dignity throughout the five year long process against him. — He is an innocent man who has refused to accept any offer of being pardoned and this makes him a hero, Kovaliev said, adding that the conviction of Pasko shows that the development in Russia is going backwards.
— Under the present leadership, many former Soviet structures are being restored. Therefore the Pasko-case is not only a Russian case. It is a case that affects Europe and the whole world.
Aleksei Simonov stressed that the Pasko-conviction shows that the Russian Courts are still the obedient servants of the system. — The notion of independent Courts is unfortunately a fiction in Russia, he said.
The three non-Russians in the panel, Mamère, Wuorri and Gauslaa drew parallels between the cases of Aleksandr Nikitin and Grigory Pasko, and underlined the importance of awarding Pasko the Sakharov prize.
— The fact that Nikitin was acquitted two years ago, while Pasko now has been convicted, is a disturbing development, Gauslaa said. Wuori made Andrei Sakharov´s words his, when he underlined that foreign attention and pressure towards Russia are needed in order to support its civic society. — Giving the prize to Pasko; would indeed serve this purpose.
The Sakharov prize for the Freedom of Thought was first awarded by the European Parliament in 1988. It is awarded to individuals or organisations for making significant contributions to the promotion of human rights and basic freedom, and for firmly opposing persecution and injustice. The list of previous winners includes Nelson Mandela, Aleksander Dubcek and Burmese Nobel Peace Prize-winner, Aung San Suu Kyi.
This year’s winner will be selected on October 17th, while the award ceremony will be held in Strasbourg at the parliamentary session in December 2002.