Russia Today

Fri., Nov. 27, 1998 at: NY 6:46 a.m. Lon 11:46 a.m. Pra 12:46 p.m. Mos 2:46 p.m.

Russian Court Refuses to Free Treason Suspect

MOSCOW, Nov. 27, 1998 -- (Reuters) The military unit of Russia's Supreme Court on Thursday rejected an appeal from lawyers and human rights activists to free a naval officer charged with treason.

The defense wanted Pacific Fleet Captain Grigory Pasko, who also worked for a local military newspaper and worked part-time for a Japanese television channel, to be freed on the condition that he did not leave the port city of Vladivostok while investigations continued.

"It is a very alarming signal. To tell the truth, I did not expect anything like that, I thought the military collegium would solve this minor issue," Pasko's lawyer Karen Nersisyan told NTV television.

Pasko faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. The Federal Security Service (FSB), a successor to the Soviet KGB secret police, arrested him last November in Vladivostok on spying charges.

He is accused of collecting materials of military-economic nature, some of which allegedly contained government secrets. The FSB suspects he had contacts with foreign intelligence services.

But journalists and human rights activists say the materials Pasko collected were about the Pacific Fleet's nuclear waste disposal in the region and that the case against him was fabricated by the military intelligence and the FSB.

NTV quoted lawyers and doctors as saying Pasko had fallen ill in the cell and was losing both physical and moral strength.

Last year, Russia arrested a former naval officer and nuclear inspector, Aleksander Nikitin, after he gave details about Russia's nuclear waste to the Norwegian Bellona Foundation. He was later released but is still facing charges of treason.

( (c) 1998 Reuters)