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#4 - JRL 7020
Bellona hopes for Pasko's release

ST. PETERSBURG/OSLO. Jan 16 (Interfax-Northwest) - The Norwegian environmental organization Bellona has hailed the decision of the penitentiary facility where journalist Grigory Pasko is serving his sentence to uphold his request for parole.

"We hope the Ussuriisk City Court will honor this request, especially because we do not see any reasons for denial," Igor Kudrik, a Bellona official, told Interfax.

He recalled that Bellona is directly related to the Pasko case as Ivan Pavlov, director of the Bellona office in St. Petersburg, is his chief defense lawyer. In addition, Bellona has been involved in preparing a complaint for the European Court, and is coordinating the work of various human rights organizations involved in the case.

"In spite of the fact that we continue to insist that he is completely innocent, Grigory's release will be a signal for the start of democratic reforms in the environmental sphere, not only for the European community, but also for Russia itself," Kudrin said.

Pasko was arrested on November 23, 1997, and charged with high treason.

On December 25, 2001, the Pacific Fleet court found Pasko guilty of espionage for Japan and sentenced him to four years imprisonment. Pasko was convicted of illegal collection and possession of classified information and of attempting to pass this information to a foreign citizen.

In March 2002, Pasko was offered a pardon. However, he turned the offer down, saying that he did not consider himself guilty. However, in June 2002, the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court ruled not to change the ruling brought out by the Pacific Fleet court.

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