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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Protesters in Vladivostok Demand Pasko's Release

Itar-TassPolice detaining an unruly man at the rally Thursday at the FSB offices in Vladivostok.
VLADIVOSTOK, Far East -- Dozens of protesters gathered in Vladivostok on Thursday to demand the release of journalist Grigory Pasko, jailed last month on charges of high treason.

In St. Petersburg, Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov added to the criticism of the military court verdict, describing as groundless Pasko's conviction for telling Japan about the navy dumping toxic waste in the Sea of Japan.

Demonstrators gathered outside the Vladivostok offices of the Federal Security Service holding posters reading: "We Want Truth About the Nuclear Crimes of the Pacific Fleet" and "Bring to Trial Corrupt Admirals, Not Journalists."

The FSB brought the case against Pasko.

"I think a precedent will be created. Some positive decision must be taken," Pasko's wife, Galina, bundled up against sub-freezing temperatures, told RTR television. "Justice must triumph."

Officials from the U.S. Consulate General in Vladivostok also attended the protest.

"This is a case of freedom of speech and expression," said diplomat Alexander Hamilton, speaking in Russian. "America is concerned with the future of Russia in general because after Sept. 11 we became not only friends, but almost like allies."

After a 40-minute rally, the protest -- organized by several local environmental watchdogs working together for Pasko's cause -- moved on to other offices involved in the case, such as the military court and the prosecutor's office.

The FSB denounced the protest as a "well-organized political action in no way related to justice."

The military court found Pasko guilty of passing military secrets to Japan, sentencing him to four years in a high-security jail. He will appeal against the verdict.

The military prosecutor's office has also appealed, saying Pasko's four-year jail term was too lenient.

Mironov on Wednesday reiterated criticism of the case that he first made in late December.

"As a citizen of Russia, I think the man has been convicted for no good reason," Mironov said. "If a military secret affects hundreds of thousands of people, or even millions, and affects the health of their children, I don't think there should be any punishment for violating such a secret."

Pasko's defense was built on a law stipulating that information about environmental dangers could not be classified.

Human rights groups have also spoken against the verdict. Amnesty International this week called for his release and said his prosecution appeared "motivated by political reprisal for exposing the practice of dumping nuclear waste."

Four protesters were detained at a rally against the verdict at FSB headquarters in Moscow on Monday.

(Reuters, AP)