Russian journalist sentenced to three years, then freed

Man exposed navy dumping of nuclear waste in sea

July 21, 1999|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

MOSCOW -- A crusading journalist who was sentenced by a military court yesterday to three years in prison but then released said the verdict was a warning against environmental activism and a sign of the continuing power wielded by a KGB successor.

Grigory M. Pasko, 37, a navy captain and military journalist, was charged with treason after he exposed the navy's dumping of nuclear waste in the Sea of Japan.

He was convicted on a lesser charge -- abuse of his position for personal gain -- when the treason accusation was unproved.

He then was released under an existing amnesty program for criminals convicted on minor charges.

Pasko, a journalist for the Pacific Fleet newspaper Boyevaya Vakhta, or Combat Watch, was arrested in 1997 for free-lance work he did for the Japanese television network NHK.

He was accused of handing over a videotape showing Russian sailors dumping nuclear waste at sea in 1993. Pasko denied that he released classified material.

Though he walked out of court in Vladivostok a free man after 20 months in jail, Pasko spoke angrily against his conviction.

He said the verdict "confirmed one more time that innocent people put on trial on charges trumped up by the KGB have never been and never will be acquitted in Russia. Such people will always be pronounced guilty. The KGB and its flunkies will never acknowledge their mistakes or repent their sins."

The successor to the KGB is the Federal Security Service, or FSB.

Reports surfaced last week that agents of the FSB recently raided the home of Vladimir Soifer, a scientist in Vladivostok. Soifer had contributed a chapter to a recent book produced by the Green Cross in Switzerland about a 1985 nuclear accident involving a submarine at Chazhma Bay near Vladivostok, in the Russian Far East.

And the Supreme Court last week ordered a new trial for former navy Capt. Alexander Nikitin, who was charged with treason in 1996 after helping the Norwegian environmental group Bellona expose the dangers of nuclear submarines abandoned in northern Russia.

Nikitin's original trial ended last year without a verdict, and the case was sent back to the FSB for further investigation.

Pub Date: 7/21/99

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