Supreme Court plays down intent to acquit Pasko

Publish date: April 1, 2003

Supervisory appeal forwarded by Grigory Pasko to the Chairman of the Russian Supreme Court is rejected.

Following the parole release of Grigory Pasko on January 23d this year, his defence team filed a so-called supervisory appeal to the Presidium of the Russian Supreme Court. The appeal asked the court to re-evaluate Pasko’s case and acquit him due to the lack of the criminal content in his activities. This was the second appeal lodged to Vyacheslav Lebedev, Chairman of the Russian Supreme Court.

No re-evaluation

The first appeal addressed also to Lebedev was forwarded to the Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court, headed by General Nikolay Petukhov. The Military Collegium considers cases, where military personnel are involved. The General found no bases to re-evaluate the conviction, which was reached by the Pacific Fleet Military Court in December 2001.

On January 24, 2003 the Chairman of the Supreme Court said to journalists that he had received the second supervisory appeal from Pasko’s lawyers. He also confirmed that he intended to forward the appeal for consideration in the Presidium of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation.

But these optimistic for Pasko statements were later played down by the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court. In late March, the defence received a letter signed by Anatoly Ukolov, the Deputy Chairman of the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court. The military judge said once again that there were no grounds to re-evaluate the conviction verdict against Grigory Pasko.

Corporative interests

Pasko’s lawyer Ivan Pavlov said that the corporative interests of the military establishment in Russia prevail the law in this case. Thus, it is necessary to steer the Pasko case into the civilian court system. The defence team intends to file the third appeal shortly to the Chairman of the Supreme Court.

Pasko also has an application pending before the Human Rights Court in Strasbourg, in which he claims that his rights under Articles 6, 7 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights have been violated. Due to the Court’s workload there is however, no reason to believe that his case will be handled this year.

Grigory Pasko lives now in Moscow. He works for the Bellona Foundation and as a freelance reporter for various Russian newspapers. In mid March, Pasko applied for his foreign passport, which will enable him to travel outside Russia. The law does not restrict his movement even though he is on parole. By mid April there should be an answer from the police whether he gets his foreign passport.

Pasko case background

Grigory Pasko, an investigative journalist who worked for the Pacific Fleet’s newspaper, was arrested in Vladivostok on November 20, 1997. The Russian Security Police, FSB, accused Pasko for having committed high treason through espionage when working with Japanese journalists.

Pasko’s publications were focusing primarily on nuclear safety issues in the Russian Pacific Fleet.

In July 1999 the Court of the Russian Pacific Fleet in Vladivostok acquitted Pasko of the treason charges, but sentenced him to three years in prison for ‘abuse of his official position’ and released him under a general amnesty.

Pasko appealed, but so did the prosecution, insisting that he was a spy. In November 2000 the Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court cancelled the verdict, and sent the case back for a re-trial at the Pacific Fleet Court.

After several postponements, the re-trial started on July 11, 2001. It ended on Christmas Day 2001, with Pasko being acquitted on nine out of ten charges, but he was still convicted to four years of hard labor for treason and taken into custody.

Amnesty International adopted Pasko as a prisoner of conscience on January 7, 2002, saying that the prosecution of Pasko appears to be “motivated by political reprisal for exposing the practice of dumping nuclear waste.”

Both sides appealed the verdict. While the defence demanded a full acquittal, the prosecution believed the sentence was too lenient and demanded 12 years for Pasko. The hearing of the appeal case in the Supreme Court was held on June 25th, 2002. The verdict was slightly changed in Pasko’s favour, but the 4-year sentence remained the same.

After serving two thirds of his sentence Pasko was released on parole by the decision of the Ussuriysk City Court on January 23rd, 2003.

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