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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

3 Witnesses Testify in Pasko Espionage Trial

VLADIVOSTOK, Far East — A Vladivostok court heard testimony Monday from the first three witnesses in the second espionage trial of military journalist Grigory Pasko, Pasko's lawyer said.

Pasko is accused of passing military secrets on the combat-readiness of Russia's Pacific Fleet to Japanese media. But he and his supporters say he is being punished for his environmental reporting, which included a story on the navy's dumping of radioactive waste into the Sea of Japan.

Lawyer Anatoly Pyshkin said none of the three witnesses confirmed Pasko's guilt, even though they had all been called by the prosecution.

Pacific Fleet Vice Admiral Alexander Konev testified that he had given Pasko clearance to write his articles because the topics were not classified, Pyshkin said.

The other witnesses, Anatoly Fomin, who worked with Pasko at the Pacific Fleet's newspaper, and Viktor Ryzhkov, the former chief of the Pacific Fleet press center, also failed to confirm his guilt, the lawyer said.

Pasko was acquitted of espionage in 1999, but found guilty on lighter charges of abuse of office. He was freed immediately under a general amnesty. Seeking a full acquittal, Pasko appealed the verdict — but so did prosecutors, insisting he was a spy.

Pyshkin said the retrial, which is closed to journalists and the public, has been fairer than the first trial. During the first trial, the judge regularly rejected defense motions, and prosecutors would stand up and shout during the proceedings, he said. "I have the impression the court really wants to put things right," Pyshkin said.