Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Russian Spy Trials Raise Red Flag about Human Rights ; A Russian Journalist Was Sentenced Last Week to Four Years' Hard Labor for Giving State Secrets to Japan

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Russian Spy Trials Raise Red Flag about Human Rights ; A Russian Journalist Was Sentenced Last Week to Four Years' Hard Labor for Giving State Secrets to Japan

Article excerpt

Russian human rights activists say harsh rulings in two court cases last week could mean that the country's security service is flexing new muscle.

The cases of Grigory Pasko, a military journalist who revealed illegal nuclear waste dumping by the Russian Navy, and sociologist Igor Sutyagin, who produced a press digest for a British firm, have been described as a barometer of Russia's progress toward an open, rule-of-law society under former KGB agent Vladimir Putin.

"What is happening involves a secret police revival, not the pursuit of justice," says Yury Schekochekin, a liberal parliamentarian and member of the Duma Security Commission.

Both defendants were prosecuted by Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the KGB, under a secret decree that has been ruled illegal by the Supreme Court. Both have been subjected to lengthy imprisonment while the FSB tried unsuccessfully to marshal evidence that they betrayed their country.

Some experts charge that a wave of spy trials in the past two years has been orchestrated by the FSB to intimidate intellectuals.

A year ago an American businessman, Edmund Pope, was convicted of espionage and later pardoned by the Kremlin. Another US citizen, exchange student John Tobin, was arrested for alleged drug possession - but publicly accused by the FSB of being an American spy. He was released after serving six months in prison. Last summer a Russian diplomat, Valentin Moiseyev, was convicted of treason and given 4-1/2 years at hard labor for giving published materials to a South Korean colleague. Valentin Danilov, a Siberian physicist, faces treason charges for allegedly passing rocket secrets to China. All of the trials were held in secret, and human rights workers claim all were marked by gross procedural errors and FSB pressure on the judges.

"All these trials at one time are not a coincidence; they constitute a campaign," says Ernest Chorny, an expert with Ecology and Human Rights, a coalition of independent groups. "The defendants have been chosen not on the basis of their guilt, but to send a particular message to a certain social group. Hence we've had spy trials involving a journalist, an academic, a scientist, a diplomat, and a foreign businessman in barely a year."

Mr. Pasko, a former naval captain turned journalist, was convicted of "high treason in the form of espionage" by a military court on Dec. 25, and sentenced to four years' hard labor. The FSB maintained that Pasko had attended a secret military council in 1997, took notes, and had intended to pass information about "secret naval maneuvers" to the Japanese media - though he was never accused of actually having done so. In 1999, the same court had convicted Pasko of negligence for passing film to Japanese TV journalists of the Russian Pacific Fleet illegally jettisoning nuclear wastes. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.