Crusader sentenced

Gaol term for environmentalist in land of glasnost

Published: Friday 15 February 2002

Ecowarrior Grigory Pasko was sentenced to four years of imprisonment by a Russian military court for passing state secrets to Japan.

The decision stunned Pasko, a navy captain-turned military journalist, who had won the original case two years back but was convicted at the retrial. The three-judge panel dismissed nine charges against the ex-officer but held him guilty of high treason as he had indulged in espionage.

Although released under an amnesty, he had been found guilty of a lesser charge and sought the retrial to defend his innocence. Pasko's lawyer Ivan Pavlov said: "We will appeal against the verdict." The defence counsel had cited a Russian law according to which information pertaining to environmental dangers could not be termed as classified. Meanwhile, Pasko turned down Russian president Vladimir Putin's suggestion that he seek a pardon from the premier.

Pasko had been accused of disclosing details about the locations where the Russian navy had dumped toxic waste in the Sea of Japan to a Japanese newspaper. Alexander Zdanovich, spokesman for the Federal Security Service (FSB) which had the case reopened, said it was not about covering up the damage caused to the environment by the navy. The military journalist was arrested in November 1997 by counter-intelligence agents on his return from Japan. He was incarcerated for 20 months ahead of his first trial, at which he was cleared in July 1999.

He alleged that Russia was gripped by a "spy mania", accusing the FSB of persecuting people like himself. Pasko's retrial came against the backdrop of a slew of cases filed by the FSB against ecologists and researchers, a trend said to be more discernible after Putin -- a former FSB chief -- became the head of the state.

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