Russian Naval
Officer/Reporter Tried for Treason
MOSCOW (AP) _ A Russian naval officer and journalist imprisoned for more than a year on treason charges went on trial Thursday for allegedly passing secrets about Russia's navy to Japanese media.
The trial of Capt. Grigory Pasko, a reporter for the military newspaper Boevaya Vakhta, or Combat Vigil, first opened in October but was immediately postponed. Pasko has been in jail since his arrest in November 1997.
Pasko was shown on Russian television walking into the closed trial at a naval court in the Far Eastern city of Vladivostok with a pile of documents. He looked healthy and said his mood was ``fine.''
Prosecutors say he passed on classified information about the readiness of the Russian Pacific Fleet. Lawyers for Pasko maintain the information he gave to the Japanese television station NHK and other outlets simply detailed the environmental problems at several Russian Pacific Fleet bases.
Some of the footage allegedly passed on showed Russian sailors dumping liquid radioactive waste into the Sea of Japan.
If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison, Russia's ORT television reported. His lawyers appealed again Thursday for Pasko's release from pretrial detention, to no avail.
Pasko's case has drawn the attention of national and international human rights organizations and journalist groups. The France-based advocacy group Reporters Without Borders appealed to authorities Wednesday for his release.
He ran in recent City Council elections in Vladivostok, in what his aides called an effort to draw attention to the case and help obtain his release. He also could have won immunity from prosecution as an elected official. He lost the race.