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Russian court frees ecologist Pasko
By Anton Doroshev

USSURIYSK, Russia, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Military journalist Grigory Pasko, jailed on charges of espionage for alleging that Russia's navy dumped nuclear waste at sea, was freed by a Russian court on Thursday and vowed to clear his name.

A court in Ussuriysk, near the Pacific port of Vladivostok, over-ruled prosecutors and prison officials and gave Pasko a conditional release well ahead of the end of his four-year sentence. He was jailed in December 2001.

Pasko, whose case was seen by environmentalists and free speech advocates as an indicator of President Vladimir Putin's commitment to uphold human rights, said he would fight on to prove his innocence.

"I had already lost hope for a fair ruling. From the very outset, all actions against me were unjust," he told reporters after walking free from the penal colony in the late afternoon.

"We will fight for full rehabilitation to restore my good name. The last month was very difficult for me. I was expecting all sorts of underhand tricks from the administration."

Pasko pledged to resume work as a journalist. His lawyer said he would press to establish his full innocence with the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights.

Prosecutors said they were considering appealing against the judgment. Prison officials had opposed his release, saying he had refused to take part in prison activities and had made derogatory remarks about staff in correspondence with his wife.

Pasko had worked with Japanese television and newspapers gathering information for reports that included allegations that the Russian navy was dumping nuclear waste in the Pacific Ocean.

Environmentalists and human rights activists said he had disclosed no state secrets.

Pasko, a former navy captain, was arrested by counter-intelligence agents in 1997 on his return from Japan. He spent 20 months in prison before his first trial in which he was cleared on treason charges.

Convicted on a lesser charge of exceeding his authority, he was released, but pursued legal action to clear his name.

A subsequent retrial handed down a four-year sentence for spying and his appeal was rejected last year.

Pasko's retrial took place against the background of a spate of cases brought by the FSB domestic security agency against ecologists and researches after Putin, former FSB chief, came to power in 2000.

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