#14 - JRL 7060
Pasko Interviewed on Prison Experience, Discusses Future Plans
29 January 2003
Interview with Grigoriy Pasko by Konstantin Katanyan:
"Grigoriy Pasko Prepares for Exams"
An exclusive interview of Vremya MN.
[Katanyan] You had to spend two years and eight months behind bars. Would you like to cross out those years from your life or did they just harden your personality?
[Pasko] About hardening my personality -- you're asking the wrong person. I don't like to operate with such concepts. As for crossing out the years from my life -- of course not. Because it was not only experience, it was not only my life, but also years of continuous work. I studied prison life, I wrote three books there, they were published, and people are reading them. I hope this experience of mine will come in handy for someone.
[Katanyan] You intend to fight again for a review of the verdict. But such a review already occurred once, and it wasn't in your favor.
[Pasko] You need to keep in mind that now the verdict will occur at a fundamentally different level. Last time it was an appeals court. The military collegium of the Supreme Court (VS) of Russia studied the case and sent it for a new consideration by a different composition of the court. Just now, as far as I know (I haven't seen the official notice), the VS chairman instructed the VS presidium to consider my review appeal. We haven't yet achieved a consideration of the case on a review basis, especially in the VS presidium. At last the case has escaped from the paws of military justice, and we hope that it will examined fully, objectively, in an unbiased and comprehensive manner.
[Katanyan] In other words, one can't say that you are no longer relying on our courts as a whole, but you subdivide them rigorously into a military court and a general-jurisdiction court?
[Pasko] Absolutely right. I haven't given up on our judiciary, I still have hopes that fair and principled people work there. Besides, the appeal was drawn up by highly experienced attorneys, who are defending me. Izvestia, unfortunately, distorted my words and also came up with a bad headline to the effect that I was "a kingpin" in the colony. After serving about three years and having contact with various categories of criminals, I would never say that.
[Katanyan] Do you confirm that those criminals treated you with respect?
[Pasko] Yes, that's true.
[Katanyan] And you even had to give them legal assistance?
[Pasko] That happened regularly. In fact, I can take pride in several small successes. For example, based on one appeal I wrote, the krai court lopped off two years from the sentence of Ivan Ivanov (that's not a made-up name, but a real one).
[Katanyan] So maybe you should change your profession and become a defense attorney or a human-rights advocate?
[Pasko] It's not out of the question.
[Katanyan] And what about before the colony, during the investigation? Was your treatment there different? You spoke more than once about strong pressure, to the point of physical pressure.
[Pasko] There was always pressure. But nothing physical was ever done.
[Katanyan] Then your words about arm-twisting were a figure of speech?
[Pasko] Of course. I was just told yesterday that some people took that literally. People need to understand the Russian language properly.
[Katanyan] I don't think it's just that. We often hear that torture is continuing to be used in Russia's prisons.
[Pasko] I would venture to assure you that that's not idle talk. At any rate many inmates that I talked with on that subject didn't just say that they'd been tortured, but even showed the scars.
[Katanyan] That happened at the FSB? Or did that pertain to interrogations by the militia?
[Pasko] Actually it was by the militia. Although... there also was an incident that occurred at the FSB. They beat a man, a former officer, to get him to make a statement, and succeeded. They beat it out of him, and the man ended up in the colony.
[Katanyan] But really, who found it so necessary to shake a confession out of you?
[Pasko] You should ask the people who started all this, who set it off, continued it and are continuing now. I can say one thing: Russia, which is moving in the direction of democracy and a state under the rule of law, definitely doesn't need this.
[Katanyan] What did you mean when you said that some actions are continuing against you even now? The procurator's office, after all, has announced that it doesn't intend to contest your release.
[Pasko] There will be no review of the judicial decision on parole. But the procurator's office doesn't intend to declare that my verdict was unjust. Nor has there been such a decision by the judiciary, even though the verdict is based on an overtly phony, falsified criminal case.
[Katanyan] The late judge of the Constitutional Court Ernest Ametistov always stressed that you can't try someone for intentions, only for deeds. Yet in your case, as far as I know, what is being condemned are intentions, the desire to turn over secret information.
[Pasko] The verdict says just that -- for the intention to turn over secret documents.
[Katanyan] But that's nonsense. What did they do -- get into your soul and see a desire to become a spy?
[Pasko] There's more than enough nonsense there. For example, this line: "Took illegal notes while at a conference." How can you take illegal notes? If you've been invited to a conference (and the VS determined that I was there legally) how can a person, especially a journalist, take illegal notes about what is discussed there? As defense attorney Genri Reznik says, that's tantamount to making the charge that someone illegally heard or saw something, or illegally thought something.
[Katanyan] Unfortunately, our judges cannot always boast of competence. It's no accident that they don't want all verdicts to made public.
[Pasko] I agree. There's a popular opinion that military justice examines cases in a much more qualitative way than a civilian court. I don't know, maybe I ran into some other military justice. But I have serious complaints not only about decisions already handed down, but also about how they examine cases, about the process itself.
[Katanyan] That's why many citizens of Russia have now turned their eyes to the European Court of Human Rights. Your appeal has also gone to Strasbourg. If it is granted, Russia will not only have to pay you compensation, but also admit it was wrong. Do you think this precedent will help many people who have found themselves in a similar situation -- right now we have so many sensational spy cases...
[Pasko] There aren't that many sensational cases. Although even ten is already enough. I'm not thinking about compensation, I don't know if it will get to that. But if it does, the payment will be bogged down in red tape for so long anyway that I probably will never get the money. But the decision itself on my criminal case has already changed not only changed legal thinking, but also regulations. For example, two orders by the Defense Ministry have already been found to be "stupid." If every serviceman whose rights were violated by those orders appealed them, that would be real progress.
[Katanyan] But to get back to the possible decision by the Strasbourg court. Will it help make another stride from spy mania to a state under the rule of law?
[Pasko] In my view, it's much more important that a decision to acquit Pasko is completely accepted by our court. The Strasbourg court is not examining the court in substance, it is merely examining violated rights, the application of inapplicable laws, etc. If it has already decided it is expedient to consider my appeal, then I hope it will be granted.
But if my verdict is reviewed in Russia, then we can really expect that there will be fewer spy trials. And if an FSB investigator wants to initiate such proceedings, he will first think long and hard about it.
[Katanyan] The last question is about your immediate plans... What do you plan to do?
[Pasko] Drop by RGGU [Russian State University of Social Sciences], show the instructors my outlines, set a schedule for taking tests and exams, pick up literature and spend some time preparing in Moscow for taking the examines. I hope to graduate from the RGGU law school and obtain my third higher education. I also need a law degree because I am now editor-in-chief of the journal Ekologiya i pravo [Ecology and the Law]. It is based on St. Petersburg, and four issues have already come out. We intend to initiate the examination of cases in which ecological laws were violated.
[Katanyan] Does Aleksandr Nikitin, whom the authorities tried to convict specifically for revealing secrets related to ecology, also collaborate with the journal?
[Pasko] He's one of its founders and a member of the editorial board.