Writers in prison

During the last year, International PEN has monitored more than 700 cases of writers and journalists threatened with imprisonment in 99 countries. This week, in a landmark case, the Russian military and environmental journalist Grigory Pasko will go on trial for the second time on a charge of spying.

Pasko was first arrested in 1997. Then an army captain working for the Russian navy's Pacific Ocean magazine, he was charged with gathering "state secrets" with the intention of publishing them abroad. His arrest came after he filed a report for Japanese television that apparently showed Russian sailors dumping radioactive waste into the Sea of Japan. Pasko spent 19 months in prison, but the espionage charge was dismissed by a judge after a trial lasting six months.

Last November, however, the military section of the Supreme Court overturned the acquittal and returned the case to the court in Vladivostok, ordering a retrial. Pasko now faces an eight-year prison sentence if convicted. Appeals on his behalf can be sent to the judicial authorities of Vladivostok, addressed to:

General Major Valery Suchkov
Military Prosecutor of the Pacific Fleet
Trossiyaskaya Federatsiya
Primorsky Krai
Vladivostok
Voennaya prokuratura Tihookeanskogo flota
Russian Federation.

Joan Smith chairs the Writers in Prison Committee of English PEN


PEN is the only international writers' association. It was founded in 1921, and its charter has always been of unique and fundamental importance to the creativity of writers of all disciplines, and to the survival of editors, publishers and the literary infrastructure. Its objectives are to uphold freedom of expression wherever it may be threatened; to champion writers in prison and in oppressive regimes; to promote greater international and intercultural understanding and co-operation via writers and the written word; and to act as an advocate for literature, literacy and related causes.