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Wednesday, 13 February, 2002, 18:35 GMT
Russian court overturns secrecy laws
Grigory Pasko
Pasko says the charges were fabricated for political purposes
Caroline Wyatt

The military branch of the Supreme Court in Moscow has ruled invalid two state secrecy orders, in a move hailed as a victory for free speech and human rights in Russia.

Russian newspapers
Several Russian newspapers have condemned "spy mania"
The orders have been used in several high-profile trials to convict Russians of spying or treason, including that of the military journalist Grigory Pasko.

In the short term, the ruling could help Pasko, who is serving a four-year prison sentence for treason. It was his legal appeal that led to the decision.

In the long term, it could signal the end of a wave of spy trials in courts across Russia, which some newspapers have dubbed "spy mania".

Too secret

Pasko was charged with treason for passing on to a Japanese journalist notes that he had made at a meeting of naval officers.

The charges against him were based on a 1996 Defence Ministry document which listed what the ministry considered to be state secrets.

However, what was actually on the list was itself kept secret, so that no defendant could have known whether or not he was passing on classified information.

Pasko has always insisted that the case against him was politically motivated, in retaliation for his reports alleging that the Russian navy was dumping radioactive waste at sea.

See also:

20 Jul 99 | Europe
Russian whistleblower walks free
18 Jul 99 | From Our Own Correspondent
An officer and a journalist
26 Feb 01 | Europe
Russian academic in treason trial
17 Apr 00 | Europe
Victory for nuclear whistleblower
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