International 20 November 2000
AI Index: EUR
Environmental activist Grigory Pasko faces new imprisonment
A day before the Military Collegium of Russia's Supreme Court prepares
to consider the conviction and sentence of journalist Grigory Pasko who
was jailed for peacefully
exercising his freedom of expression Amnesty International urges that
his conviction should be quashed.
Grigory Pasko was arrested by Federal Security Service (FSB) officers
in November 1997 for treason and espionage, after he exposed the Russian
navy's illegal dumping of nuclear waste off the coast of Vladivostok.
He was sentenced to three years' imprisonment by the military court in
Vladivostok in July 1999, but released from detention under an amnesty.
"Grigory Pasko has already been subjected to 20 months of pre-trial detention,
including 10 months of solitary confinement. The continuing actions of
military prosecutors against Grigory Pasko amount to judicial persecution,"
Amnesty International said today.
"By harassing those who expose environmental crimes, the Federal Security
Service is demonstrating a perverse and, in the wake of the Chernobyl
experience, potentially disastrous misconception of where Russia's national
security interests lie," said Amnesty International today. "The authorities'
security policy should not run counter to Russia's human rights obligations."
In a media interview given in July 1999. when Vladimir Putin was head
of the FSB and the Security Council, he characterized the Russian environmental
movement as a Trojan horse for espionage by foreign powers, and called
Grigory Pasko a spy. This year President Putin abolished the independent
governmental environmental inspection committee.
"The Russian security services' action against international networking
by environmental activists threatens to deter Russians from engaging in
global civil society," said Amnesty International.
The treatment of Grigory Pasko is part of an emergent pattern of persecution
of environmental activists by the Russian authorities. In September 2000
the Supreme Court dismissed an attempt by the Prosecutor General backed
by the FSB, 10 overturn the acquittal of retired naval officer and former
prisoner of conscience Aleksandr Nikitin, whom they similarly charged
with treason and espionage for having written about the environmental
dangers posed by the decaying nuclear submarines of Russia's Northern
International 20 November 2000
AI Index: EUR
briefing on the Grigory Pasko case
Grigory Pasko, a reporter
for Boyevaya Vakhta (Battle Watch), the newspaper of the Russian Pacific
Fleet, was pronounced guilty of abusing his official position to harm
the rights and lawful interests of citizens, organizations or the state
(Article 285 of the Criminal Code) on 20 July 1999 at the end of a six-month
closed military trial in Vladivostok. Amnesty International expressed
serious concerns about the fairness of the trial, and about the impartiality
and independence of the court. Grigory Pasko was sentenced to three years
imprisonment, yet was immediately released from detention under the terms
of a nationwide amnesty. Charges of treason and espionage, for which the
prosecution demanded a prison sentence of 12 years with hard labour, were
dismissed by the court.
Grigory Pasko appealed against the conviction and sentence, arguing that
the prosecution failed to demonstrate that he had committed any crime.
Moreover, as the military court acknowledged, the prosecution case relied
on a multitude of misrepresentations of the materials of the case. Furthermore,
the court determined that the military prosecutors presented evidence
that was falsified.
For their part, military prosecutors appealed against the dismissal of
the treason charges. The military prosecutor of the Pacific Fleet submitted
a supplementary appeal on 29 August 2000 protesting "the unfair leniency
of the sentence", calling for it to be annulled and for the ease to be
tried anew at the Vladivostok military court. This would give military
prosecutors the opportunity, once again, to commit Grigory Pasko to a
long period of pretrial detention.
In 1993 Grigory Pasko filmed a Russian navy tanker dumping radioactive
waste in the Sea of Japan. This film, Extra-dangerous Zone, was later
shown by the Japanese TV station Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK), Japan Broadcasting
Corporation, and by a TV station in Primorsky Krai, in far eastern Russia.
In this film and a series of articles printed in the military newspaper
Boyevaya Vakhta and the Japanese daily newspaper Asahi Shimbun. Grigory
Pasko showed the threat to the environment caused by accidents in Russia's
decaying nuclear submarine fleet. According to the articles and the broadcast,
because of a shortage of money and high level corruption in the Pacific
Fleet, the Russian navy had illegally dumped liquid and solid nuclear
waste of the coast of Vladivostok, endangering the health of the population
in the coastal areas of the Russian Federation, Japan and other countries.
Grigory Pasko was arrested in November 1997 by FSB officers at Vladivostok
airport when he returned from an officially sanctioned trip to Japan to
research a story about Russian sailors in Japan during World War II. FSB
officers also searched his apartment and confiscated documents he bad
gathered for his investigation. He was accused of passing classified information
to Japanese agents. Although officials have admitted that none of the
confiscated documents were classified, they claimed that taken as a whole,
the series of articles and TV programmes published and aired over three
years, posed a threat to national security.
In fact it is a violation of the Russian Constitution (Articles 41 and
42), and a crime under the Russian Criminal Code (Article 237), punishable
by up to five years' imprisonment, to withhold information on the condition
of the environment or on incidents or catastrophes that endanger human
life - precisely the kind of information Grigory Pasko revealed.
24 November 2000
AI Index: EUR 46/047/2000 - News Service Nr. 223
Russian Federation: Continued pressure on Grigory Pasko
today expressed its deep concern about the decision of the Military Collegium
of Russia's Supreme Court, in which it ordered the military court of the
Pacific Fleet to reconsider the case of the Russian journalist and environmentalist
The human rights organization considers this court ruling as a sign of
increasing pressure on environmental activists in the Russian Federation.
Grigory Pasko was arrested in 1997 for treason and espionage, after exposing
the Russian navy's illegal dumping of nuclear waste. He was sentenced
to three years' imprisonment by the military court in July 1999 on a lesser
charge, but was then released under an amnesty. He had already spent 20
months in pretrial detention, 10 months of which was in solitary confinement.
He was considered as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International
at that time.
On 21 November 2000, the Military Collegium took its decision after the
military prosecutor of the Pacific Fleet appealed against the dismissal
of the more serious treason charge. The appeal was accepted on the basis
that the details of the case had not been examined carefully enough.
Amnesty International believes that Grigory Pasko has done no more than
peacefully exercise his fundamental right to freedom of expression. He
should not have been prosecuted as he acted in full compliance with the
Amnesty International will continue to monitor the case of Grigory Pasko
and calls on the Russian authorities to drop all charges against him.