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Russian Military Journalist Released on Parole - 2003-01-23

A Russian military journalist whose reporting on environmental issues landed him in prison in 2001 has been released on parole.

Journalist Grigory Pasko left a prison in Russia's Far Eastern region after serving most of his four-year term.

A military court sentenced Mr. Pasko at the end of 2001 after he was convicted of treason. He had already spent many months in jail.

Prosecutors charged he had made notes at a meeting of military commanders which he intended to give to Japanese media investigating environmental abuses by the Russian military.

Mr. Pasko, an army journalist, first got into trouble in 1997 when he reported on the dumping of radioactive waste and old weapons into the Pacific Ocean.

He gave Japanese television a videotape and other material that was later used against him at trial.

He has always maintained his innocence in a case which human rights groups say raises questions about press freedom in Russia.

One of the journalist's lawyers says this isn't the end of the case.

Attorney Ivan Pavlov says his client will press ahead with a petition to Russia's Supreme Court to clear his name entirely.

Mr. Pavlov says his client's release is important, but more important is the restoration of his good name. The lawyer says he will file a complaint with the head of Russia's Supreme Court.

Grigory Pasko was initially acquitted of treason in a 1999 trial, but was then found guilty at a second trial.

Environmental groups have also championed his case, saying that his only crime was to expose abuses by the military.

Mr. Pasko's case ran parallel with the case of another environmental whistleblower, Alexander Nikitin, who was finally acquitted after a series of trials over a four-year period.