Russia: Release of imprisoned journalist Grigory Pasko must be made unconditional

Mr Pasko, who had served two-thirds of a four-year sentence on treason charges in a prison colony in the Russian Far East, was arrested and sentenced solely for exercising his basic human right to freedom of expression. Amnesty International had declared him a prisoner of conscience and had been campaigning for his immediate and unconditional release. Last year the UK government had also expressed concern about his case.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

'Grigory Pasko's release is a victory for the millions of people who campaigned tirelessly on his behalf. It is also a victory for those who were appalled at the fact that in Russia you can be sent to a labour camp for four years simply for speaking out against pollution.

'Instead of vilification and imprisonment, Grigory Pasko should have received praise from the Russian authorities for attempting to expose wrongdoing in the navy.

'Having previously named Mr Pasko a prisoner of conscience, we now remain committed to campaigning for Mr Pasko's full vindication and for all journalists to exercise their right to free expression in Russia.'

In 1993 Grigory Pasko, a reporter for a Russian Pacific Fleet newspaper, had filmed a Russian navy tanker dumping radioactive waste and ammunition in the Sea of Japan.

In this film, 'Extra-dangerous Zone', and in a series of articles, he exposed the threat to the environment caused by ships of Russia's decaying Pacific Fleet. He also reported on corruption inside the fleet and passed public information on these issues to Japanese journalists.

In 1997 the Russian authorities arrested Mr Pasko, alleging that his film disclosed military secrets. He spent 20 months in pre-trial detention in Vladivostok, including more than six months in solitary confinement. His health deteriorated and he was reportedly denied adequate medical care.

Mr Pasko was acquitted of all spying charges in 1999. However, two years later this was reversed, following an appeal and a closed trial in a military court in Vladivostok. On 25 December 2001 he was sentenced to four years in a labour camp in Ussuryisk, in Russia's Far East. He is currently appealing against this sentence to the Presidium of the Supreme Court.

Amnesty International believes that his prosecution appeared to be motivated by political reprisal. The organisation believes that the case is a clear breach of national and international norms protecting freedom of expression that Russia is obliged to protect.

Amnesty International adopted Grigory Pasko as a prisoner of conscience from the start. The human rights organisation's more than one million members in 140 countries around the world have been campaigning with many other human rights and environmental organisations for Mr Pasko's release.

In 2002 the UK government said it was 'concerned about procedural and legal irregularities in on-going cases such as that of Grigory Pasko.'

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has taken Grigory Pasko's case and is expected to reach a decision by the end of 2003.

Further information about Grigory Pasko's case is available online.
Amnesty International is currently campaigning for justice for all in Russia. Find our more about this campaign online.

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