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Prison Sentence for Russian Journalist Grigory Pasko (January 2, 2002)
On Christmas day a military court in Vladivostok, Russia, found Russian military journalist and environmental whistleblower, Grigory Pasko, guilty of one of ten counts of revealing state secrets and sentenced him to four years in labour camp, reduced to two years and four months for time already served. Pasko was arrested in November of 1997 following his efforts to document Russias Pacific Fleets practice of illegally dumping nuclear waste into the Sea of Japan. Pasko gave the information to the Japanese television company NHK, which used the information for a news report aired in Japan.
The Sierra Clubs Human Rights and the Environment Program is disappointed in the ruling and considers it a step in the wrong direction for free of speech in Russia. Reporting on environmental abuses should not be a crime and Pasko should not be considered a criminal.
Grigory Pasko, a journalist imprisoned in December 2001, was freed today, January 23, 2003, following a parole hearing. He was serving a two years and four month sentence for his reports on Russian navy dumping of nuclear waste. PEN Canada is delighted by this news, having campaigned on his behalf since his first arrest in 1997.
Pasko's release follows a decision made by a civilian court in Ussuriysk, near Pasko's home town of Vladivostok, that over-ruled previous decisions made by military courts. At a press conference today, Pasko told journalists that he would continue to fight for complete rehabilitation and that he would press on with his case that has already been presented to the European Court on Human Rights. Ussuriysk prison authorities had opposed parole for Pasko, citing his refusal to participate in prison activities, such as talent shows and writing for the prison newspaper, and that he had complained about his living conditions in letters to his wife. The prosecution has indicated that it may appeal the court decision.
International PEN has been campaigning for Pasko's release since his first arrest in 1997, alongside other human rights and ecology groups. He told the environmental group, Bellona, also active in his case that he had received over 500 letters of support while in prison. "I want to tell [those who sent the letters] how important it was to have that support and know people were thinking about me. This is a common victory for us all", he said. He added that he first wanted to be reunited with his wife and children, and then planned to fly to Moscow.
by The Sierra Club

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