PEN American Center deplores sentencing of Russian military journalist
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New York, NY, January 3, 2002—PEN American Center today expressed deep disappointment over the news that Grigory Pasko, the Russian military journalist who has been on trial for reporting on the dumping of nuclear waste by the Russian Navy, has been sentenced to serve an additional two years and four months in prison.
“International human rights organizations have repeatedly condemned the ongoing legal proceedings against Mr. Pasko,” said Larry Siems, Director of the Freedom to Write Program at PEN American Center. “PEN was deeply disappointed when, despite a decisive 1999 military court ruling dismissing all treason and espionage charges against him, military prosecutors responded to Mr. Pasko’s attempt to clear his name by dragging him into court yet again for espionage. This time, too, the court of the Pacific Fleet cleared Mr. Pasko on all counts relating to disseminating classified information; the best it could do was to conclude that notes he had taken while covering a meeting of the Pacific Fleet in September 1997 that were found in his flat when arrested two months later did contain classified information but no evidence was presented that he intended to disclose this information in his own reporting or to foreign news agencies. In light of the legal ordeal our colleague has been subjected to over the last 5 years and the Federal Security Services’ record of targeting environmental whistleblowers in Russia, the world cannot help but regard this latest prosecution with great skepticism and concern for the climate for freedom of expression and the press in Russia.”
Pasko was first arrested in November 1997 after documenting the Russian Pacific Fleet dumping nuclear waste and old weapons into the sea. At the time Pasko was a navy captain, working for its newspaper Boyevaya Vakhta (Battle Watch) and also as a freelancer for the Japanese press. After being charged with gathering classified information with the intention of passing it on to Japan, Pasko remained detained until July 1999 when a military court dismissed all ten charges of treason against him, although he was sentenced to three years in prison for abuse of his military office. This sentence was later wiped out by an amnesty. However, when Pasko filed an appeal against the abuse of office charge, prosecutors responded by appealing against Pasko’s acquittal. In November 2000, that appeal was accepted, and Pasko was once again summoned to court.
The four-year prison term against Pasko was reduced to two years and four months to take account of the 20 months he has already served. He was returned to prison on December 25, 2001 where he is expected to remain until the Supreme Court hears his appeal. It is believed that such a process may take up to a year.
PEN reiterated its condemnation of this sentence today, and called for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Pasko and the halting of further judicial proceedings against him.
Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660, ext. 105