Supreme Court upholds journalist ruling

Russia's Supreme Court has upheld a lower court's ruling on the espionage case against journalist Grigory Pasko, rejecting both his appeal and the Military Prosecutor's Office plea for a heavier sentence.

Pasko was on last December 25 sentenced to 4 years in prison and a confiscation of his property. The sentence has come into force.

The journalist was arrested by agents of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) office for the Pacific Fleet in November 1997 and charged with high treason and espionage for Japan. In June 1999, the Pacific Military Court reviewed the charges, convicting him of abuse of office. He was sentenced to three years in jail, but released immediately as his sentence expired under an amnesty.

Maintaining his innocence, Pasko appealed against the ruling. So did the Prosecutor's Office, which maintained the high treason charges.

The Supreme Court reviewed the prosecution's appeal and the defense's plea, overturned the lower court's ruling, and ordered new proceedings. In December 2001, the Pacific Military Court delivered a new ruling, convicting Pasko of espionage on Article 275 of the Russian Penal Code and sentencing him to 4 years in jail. The journalist was taken into custody once more, but neither the prosecution, nor the defense accepted the ruling, with the military prosecutors challenging it as too lenient and the defense wanting full acquittal for their defendant.

As part of their legal battle to acquit Pasko, his lawyers sued the Defense Ministry in the Supreme Court for rules on document classification procedures in the military which they felt were the basis of the conviction. The Supreme Court pronounced the rules null and void.

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