On the 10/13/97, when Pasko was going to leave for business travel to Japan, in the airport of Vladivistok his file with some documents was withdrawn. (He was asked what documents he carried and he showed the file that was withdrawn. This operation infringes all the legal procedures: the documents were not inventoried, the withdrawal was carried out without sanction, etc. It is significant that the journalist himself was not searched and left for Japan unimpeeded.)
On the 10/20/97, when he was back in the airport of Vladivostok, he was arrested.
The official bodies informed that Pasko was arrested on suspicion of espionage and on the ground that he tried to transport to Japan some secret documents.
Later it became clear and was proved during the trial that the withdrawn documents have no limitations: it was information of the Ministry of Agriculture on the Korean workers engaged in agriculture of Primorie (the region of Vladivistok) and information of the trade union on the social situation in the ship-repair yards.
However, the case was launched and went on with similar infringements of the law. At last the trial began. In spite of the fact that in course of the trial it became clear that Pasko had not pass any secret information to anybody (excluding his articles published in Russian mass media), the prosecution accuses Pasko of high treason and requires 12 years of imprisonment.
Most likely, the verdict will be "guilty". Probably, after the appeal, the Court of Cassation will give another qualification, select another clausula of the Penal Code and define as a punishment the term he passed already in prison.
When and why do you became engaged in the case of Pasko? Why do you find it demonstrative for the present situation in Russia? Why don't you think that the public must wait for the end of trial and only then make its opinion on justice or injustice of the trial?
It's difficult to understand why you pass by heaps of injustice and suddenly stop before one of them. You begin to fight, and to fight to the very uttermost, and do not yield. The injustice, the arbitrariness of authorities, the defencelessness in front of them is our everyday life. If you do not acquire villain "blindness", you may go mad and smash your head. Enter any police station here and you are lost in the struggle against their manner to treat people.
In the beginning of the case of Pasko the rear-admiral Ougriumoff (the chief of FSB in Pacific Navy then) declared very convincingly: Pasko was caught red-handed (the spies always are caught red-handed) when the officer tried to take out some secret materials. It seemed the FSB found irrefutable evidence against the journalist.
This first impression was so strong that we were not eager to go deep into the case. However, after the first victorious reports on unmasking a spy, the indistinctness started to grow in the information of FSB. They informed that Pasko fulfilled certain tasks but who gave theses tasks? They keep silence although Pasko himself declared (and FSB did not deny it) that he cooperated with concrete Japanese mass media. Then the information followed that FSB had no claim on them.
Here it became clear that the FSB deluded us and the case is inflated: if they charge the executor and have nothing to incriminate to those who gave him tasks, the case in whole is nothing but gibberish.
Then we got to know the original text of the bill of indictment and when we waved away the frightening rhetoric using the simple common sense we were able to understand that there were not concrete proves of the facts of transmission of secret information. No facts at all.
That was the point when we saw that there was no alternative but to go deep in the case and to engage in defence of Pasko: if you meet such a dirty trick and pass by, who must shovel away this mud?
The logic of FSB is simple:
- frightening charges
- then to assume an air of great lawyers: we have nothing in common with this, let the court investigate and decide
- then to lead the trial in camera and to declare him guilty
It is necessary to put obstacles to such a logic because the Russian court never was free and independent. It is proved by the fact that the court did not change the preventive punishment and Pasko is in prison more than 18 months of investigation.
In the similar case of Alexandre Nikitin the influence of public opinion decame more effective due to the participation of international defence (it is typical for our country). And the international organizations are not disposed to believe to FSB without strong evidence as well as we were not disposed to such an unconditional belief.
The most awful in course of the case of Pasko was impossibility to change the preventive punishment and to release him from custody. Besides, it is the most characteristic feature of the case. The most prominent persons of Russia solicited the judges and personally guaranteed that Pasko would not put obstacles to investigation and trial but the judges waved them away. It is more important for them to please the FSB and to keep Pasko under arrest.
The investigation itself was held in the most slipshod manner. If somebody believes that the secret service works on high professional level... There is no basis for it. They are hack-workers, dabblers. They are not able to hold the investigation without infringements of the law. They did not found any proof for their own suspicions on transmission of some materials. Till now they are convinced that their suspicions are sufficient proves.
During the trial it became obvious that
- there is no proof for charges laid to Pasko
- the investigation infringed so many laws that it is high time to institute proceedings against the investigators.
I can guess that after the appeal to the Court of Cassation Pasko will be set free. However, the verdict of guilty is inevitable although the clausula can be changed for another. Perhaps it will be not "Espionage" as now, it can be "Divulgence of state secret" with the punishment of two years of imprisonment (to this moment this term will be over).
I do not hope that any Court in our country could pass the sentence of "not guilty", because there never was such a precedent when secret service laid similar charges. The reabilitions took place but always they were posthumous. The sentence