Journalist Grigory Pasko’s lawyer is certain that his client is not guilty
Captain Grigory Pasko, a journalist of the Pacific Navy newspaper Battle Watch was arrested by Federal Security Bureau agents (FSB) on November 20th, 1997. The journalist was charged with betraying his fatherland on account of his articles. The articles were devoted to the issues of radiation safety in submarine docks.
Both Russian and foreign media outlets have paid a lot of their attention to the trial on the journalist. What is happening to Grigory Pasko now? Ivan Pavlov, the lawyer of the journalist managed to visit the colony, where Pasko is serving his sentence. The colleagues of the disgraced journalist from Ecology and Right magazine handed over an article for PRAVDA.Ru a couple of days ago. It is also worth mentioning that Grigory Pasko is the editor of the mentioned magazine.
Grigory Pasko’s lawyer, Ivan Pavlov, wrote:
“Pasko’s trial became a crucial case in my career as a lawyer. It actually divided my life into two: before and after. However, this is a subject of a separate article. I do not feel sorry for anything today. I would refuse from any suggestion to go back in the time, when I was not implicated in the case. I would do something in another way, though, if it was possible. Yet, it does not have anything in common with the legal defense strategy.
“I would like to apologize to my colleagues, who think that a lawyer is not supposed to write anything but appeals. I am still certain that our team has been doing its best. This is not only my opinion, this is what other respectable lawyers think too. Traditional and online media outlets have paid a lot of attention to our work. Everyone had an opportunity to estimate the power of our arguments, which proved the guiltlessness of our defendant.
“I am sure that Grigory Pasko is not guilty. I am not saying this as a lawyer, because lawyers basically do not say anything else about their defendants. I am saying this, because I know every little detail of the case. Otherwise, I would not make any comments for the press. Believe me, a lawyer always knows a lot more than a prosecutor or a judge does. This detail allowed me to comment on the case and to insist on its only outcome – the verdict of “not guilty.” I perceived Grigory Pasko’s conviction as my personal insult. So, if the court determines someone’s guilt, it will not be Pasko's, but our guilt, because we failed to defend a guiltless person. However, as they say, if you take weapons, then fight. There is a chance that the case will be reconsidered by the presidium of the Supreme Court of Russia. Our basic goal is to withdraw the case from the military justice. The court martial has brought down a verdict for itself in the matter of Grigory Pasko. However, it is all about the issues of strategy and tactics; Grigory Pasko is still in the colony. His sentence is ridiculous, but it is a “sentence of guilty.” The sentence is ridiculous because the court brought down a suspiciously soft sentence for the most horrid state crime.
“We have to act in this situation now. Last year I worked in the city of Vladivostok for six months. This year I have been to the city of Ussuriysk (the Far East of Russia), and worked there as well. This is the place, where Grigory Pasko is serving his sentence. Ussuriysk is a typical, small, provincial town. There has recently been a huge military enterprise there, which repaired tanks. The enterprise provided jobs for the majority of town’s residents. People say that there are only four people working at that enterprise now. They allegedly repair only two tanks. There is also a hotel in Ussuriysk of the same name. A presidential suit with cockroaches costs 600 rubles ($20) there. The buildings of the colony look like that hotel as well, although they were erected a hundred years earlier, maybe.
“The colony is situated on the outskirts of Ussuriysk. One has to go there either by bus, or by taxi. A way back to the town might become a very unpleasant trip because of the absence of any means of communication, or on account of really bad weather. I was aware of the weather problems in that area of the country, so I took warm water-proof clothes with me of bright green colors. I have to say that my outfit was very conspicuous against the background of the local fashion style. People of Ussuriysk all prefer black and gray.
“I remembered my high school lectures, when a professor was explaining the structure of a correctional colony. It did not even occur to me, when a student, that I would have to “practice” that lecture in the future. For those, who are not familiar with correctional institutions, I would like to give an explanation. Each colony is fenced the so-called gun-perforating, viewable perimeter. This is also called a light control zone. The zone is illuminated with searchlights very well. It is always visible, especially when you approach such an institution at nighttime.
“There are watch towers located on the perimeter of a colony, where armed soldiers stand on guard. Almost every colony is divided into two zones that are equal in their square. The first zone is a residential one. There are barracks there, an isolation ward, an administrative building, and back rooms. The second zone is an industrial one. This zone contains everything that is connected with prisoners’ “reeducation.”
“Russian prisoners are reeducated with labor. The colony, where Grigory Pasko is staying, is referred to the home wood-working industry. In other words, men manufacture furniture, doors and other wooden things there. The chief of the colony was on vacation, so I had a meeting with his deputy, justice lieutenant colonel Sergey Artyukov. The time and the date of my meeting with that man was appointed long before my arrival to the colony. I have to say that the organization of the meeting was very fine. After Artyukov got acquainted with me, he called an officer and then I was taken to a separate room to meet Grigory Pasko there. After I talked to the administration of the colony, I realized that they would do everything or nothing to Pasko, depending on adequate instructions.
“To be honest, I was naive to think that the convicted journalist was supposed to be used in the colony according to what he is actually meant. I thought that he would work in a library or in any other cultural field. However, Pasko works in a group of prisoners that make doors. The group is always ahead of the schedule. An organization even suggested buying Pasko’s door items as something unique and rare. Grigory does not complain. He does not want to do anything else. The colony’s administration is aware of the fact that Pasko’s health worsened a lot in a detention center. That is why, they do not hurry to think of any other job for Pasko. Grigory Pasko is a human being, who has the unique, special knowledge. But the authorities do not want to provide him a job that would correspond to his education, skills and knowledge. The reason why is very simple. They just want to destroy any vestige of Pasko’s professional activity in him.
“The authorities want to kill a journalist in Grigory Pasko. However, he manages to write, in order to keep up his professional shape, so to speak. He edits articles for magazine Ecology and Right, makes up appeals and other legal documents for other convicted people. There are certain results of this work. Pasko helped a prisoner to have his time in jail cut by two years. You can imagine, what kind of authority he obtained in the colony after that. As a matter of fact, the years of trial made Grigory Pasko develop his legal skills.
“The second unit of the correctional institution consists of 123 prisoners. There are only two non-smokers among them. Grigory is one of them. His daily schedule is very simple. He wakes up at 6:30 a.m., does his morning exercises and then attempts to have some hygienic procedures. It should be mentioned here that all those things happen simultaneously with 123 other grownup men. The work starts at 7:30 a.m., and ends on 6 p.m. There are six working days in a week. The prisoners march both to the work and from the work altogether. The food is adequate to the service level. All those “pleasures” are supposed to raise another human being in a prisoner and to prevent him from committing any other crimes in the future.
“It goes without saying that this system does not include a legal mistake possibility. You can imagine what a guiltless person might become, if he finds himself in the middle of the correctional mechanism. Time stands still for a man in a colony. Grigory is doing fine, in spite of the fact that his nerves are constantly tense. During my conversation with Grigory, I told him that the Supreme Court of Russia obtained his file on demand for further investigation. We respect the law and we have to deal with the sentence that was brought down on Pasko, until it is cancelled. The truth will always remain the truth. That is why, we need to believe that our legal fight is only a matter of time, even if this time is equal to a lifetime.”
Especially for PRAVDA.Ru
Article prepared by Vitaly Bratkov
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov