Now is the Moment to Declare Independence 215

The UK government is reeling. It is like a boxer already knocked unconscious before hitting the floor. The wheels of the civil service continue to turn, but there is no longer any connecton to those at the top. Authority has simply disintegrated in Boris Johnson’s hands. Everybody knows he is no longer in charge, and nobody yet knows who will be.

The time to act is when your opponent is at their weakest. This is the moment for Scotland. With a majority for Independence both in the Holyrood Parliament and – massively – among Scottish MPs at Westminster, this is the time for Scotland’s elected representatives to declare that Scotland is now an Independent state. They should set a date for a confirmatory plebiscite, I suggest in September this year. That plebiscite to be held within a Scotland already independent, held on Scotland’s terms and in Scotland’s way, with no interference from outside of Scotland.

The declaration of Independence could be made now by the Holyrood parliament or – perhaps better – by a National Assembly to be convened in the old Parliament Hall of Edinburgh, consisting of all Scotland’s MP’s and MSP’s, in other words all representatives elected at the national level. The Act of Union would thus be repealed in the building where it was passed.

Scotland should declare Independence because it is continually governed by parties for which it does not vote, has indeed been forced out of the EU against its will, and has witnessed the polity of the United Kingdom become a cesspit of lies and corrupt malpractice which Scotland should never have to suffer.

How would the UK be able to react? Who could lead the campaign against Scotland’s new Independence? The utterly discredited Boris Johnson? Rishi Sunak as his tax increases and coming sky high energy bills destroy his artificial popularity? The hopeless Liz Truss? Michelle Mone if not in prison?

The massed supporters of Anas Sarwar and Douglas Ross would hardly fill a bus. A few toothless wonders might be found to wear union jacks and smash up George Square in Glasgow, but their activity would not extend much beyond closing time.

The SNP let the golden opportunity of Brexit slip by through a cowardly acceptance of Theresa May’s claim to a power to veto any referendum. The SNP never used their Westminster parliamentary leverage to forward Independence during months of May’s effective minority government.

The SNP believed that, rather than win an Independent Scotland still in the EU, it was their duty to try to prevent England and Wales from leaving the EU, even though England and Wales had voted to leave.

Now apparently the SNP believe it is their duty to strengthen the United Kingdom by working towards the replacement of Boris Johnson by a more honest and effective leader of the union. Who will enjoy a honeymoon period, may get a post-Covid popularity boost, and will probably be less toxic to the people of Scotland than Boris Johnson. Rather than act now on Independence, the SNP seek to strengthen the union.

In short, the SNP seem far more intent on maintaining their position on the gravy train of governance inside the UK than on actually attaining Independence.

It is simply astonishing that, with the United Kingdom government falling apart before their eyes, it has not occurred to any of the SNP leadership to act now for Independence. Instead they wish to act to shore up the United Kingdom.

Now is the moment for the Scottish MPs to walk out of a Westminster parliament which is already on the verge of collapse. It should be simply unconscionable for any genuine Independence supporter to do otherwise.

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Telling Lies on an International Scale 71

The mainstream media have been replete with stories of a new Tory “red meat” initiative of right wing policies. “Government sources” briefed the media that Liz Truss and Priti Patel were in talks with their counterparts in Ghana and Rwanda about setting up internment camps to receive asylum seekers deported from the UK.

Apart from the fact it would be entirely illegal to deport eg Syrians or Afghans to Africa, I knew it to be simply impossible the story was true. I have had the pleasure of being friends with President Nana Akufo Addo of Ghana, and with many of his family, for twenty years. Nana would never agree to such a thing; his background is as a human rights lawyer and activist.

The British Government gives a great deal in aid to Ghana, and may feel this gives it leverage, but that would be massively to underestimate Ghanaian people and history, as well as its President. Ghana has a proud tradition of sheltering refugees. It harbored at various times much of the leadership of the African National Congress, and is the spiritual home of pan-Africanism. It continues to host many tens of thousands of refugees from conflict elsewhere in West Africa. Ghana helps refugees, it does not imprison them.

Ghana was the first African colony to gain Independence. It is not going to agree to be a prison for the former colonial power to detain those fleeing from conflicts that erupted as a consequence of British invasion.

The Times was adamant that arrangements were advanced, reporting that

The focus will instead be on ensuring that vessels cannot land on UK shores illegally without the knowledge of the government. Priti Patel, the home secretary, and Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, are also in talks about “outsourcing” UK asylum claims to countries such as Ghana and Rwanda.

However I spoke to three Ghanaian ministers that I know personally, who have assured me there have been absolutely no talks with Priti Patel or Liz Truss on the issue, or to their knowledge with anybody else, and that the answer is a non-negotiable “no”. The Ghanaian government has now issued an official denial.

Of course we are used to the Tories lying as naturally as they draw breath. That the Murdoch press and other right wing media amplify those lies, without the slightest attempt at fact-checking, is no longer as surprising as it should be. But to implicate another sovereign state in their lies is another level, and they have drawn entirely undeserved suspicion on President Akufo Addo and his government. The Tories have done this purely to burnish their racist credentials with their own core electorate.

It is a further symptom of Tory racism that they presume that you can tell any lies you like about what is happening in an African country and there will be no comeback.

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What Kazakhstan Isn’t 466

Knowledge of Kazakhstan in the West is extremely slim, particularly among western media, and many responses to events there have been wildly off-beam.

The narrative on the right is that Putin is looking to annex Kazakhstan, or at least the majority ethnic Russian areas in the north. This is utter nonsense.

The narrative on the left is that the CIA is attempting to instigate another colour revolution and put a puppet regime into Nur-Sultan (as the capital is called this week). This also is utter nonsense.

The lack of intellectual flexibility among western commentators entrapped in the confines of their own culture wars is a well-established feature of modern political society. Distorting a picture into this frame is not so easily detectable where the public have no idea what the picture normally looks like, as with Kazakhstan.

When you jump into a taxi in Kazakhstan, getting your suitcase into the boot is often problematic as it will be already full with a large LPG canister. Roof racks are big in Kazakhstan. Most Kazakh vehicles run on LPG, which has traditionally been a subsidised product of the nation’s massive oil and gas industry.

Fuel price rises have become, worldwide, a particular trigger of public discontent. The origins of the gilets jaunes movement in France lay in fuel price rises before spreading to other areas of popular greivance. The legacy of fuel protests in the UK have led for years cowardly politicians to submit to annual real reductions in the rate of fuel duty, despite climate change concerns.

The current political crisis in Kazakhstan was spiked by moves to deregulate the LPG market and end subsidy, which led to sharp price increases. These brought people onto the streets. The government quickly backed down and tried to reinstate price controls but not producer subsidies; that would have led gas stations to sell at a loss. The result was fuel shortages that just made protest worse.

Kazakhstan is an authoritarian dictatorship with extreme divisions in wealth and power between the ruling class – often still the old Soviet nomenklatura and their families – and everybody else. No political opposition is permitted. Infamously, after a massacre of striking miners, Tony Blair contacted former dictator Nazarbayev offering his PR services to help limit political fallout. This resulted in a $4 million per year contract for Blair to assist Kazakhstan’s PR, a contract on which BBC favourites Jonathon Powell and Alastair Campbell both worked.

One result of the Blairite media management for Kazakhstan was that the Guardian, publishing US leaked diplomatic cables in cooperation with Wikileaks, refused to publish US Embassy reports on corruption in Kazakhstan.

The Kazakh dictatorship is also a favourite destination of troughing royals Prince Andrew and Prince Michael of Kent.

I always viewed President Nazarbayev as the smartest of the Central Asian dictators. He allowed much greater individual economic freedom than in neighbouring Uzbekistan; Kazakhs could build up enterprises without the fear of having them confiscated at whim by the ruling family, and the collective farm land was given to native farmers and production diversified. Nazarbayev in foreign affairs skilfully balanced between Russia, the West and China, never definitively tilting in one direction. Ethnic Russian technocrats and academics were not driven from the country. Gazprom was not permitted to obtain dominant economic control.

There was no question of democracy being permitted or any form of opposition being given a voice. Media remained firmly under state control; internet access was restricted through designated ISP’s – I believe that has subsequently loosened, but I will not pretend to know the detail. But as in all systems with no democratic accountability and with effective legal impunity for the elite, corruption worsened, systems became sclerotic and frustration and resentment among the general population has built naturally.

The change of President two years ago from Nazarbayev to Tokayev brought no substantial changes in who runs the country.

The fuel price rises triggered protest, and once a population that had seen no outlet for its frustration viewed the chance to protest, then popular frustration erupted into popular dissent. However with no popular opposition leaders to direct it, this quickly became an incoherent boiling up of rage, resulting in destruction and looting.

So where do the CIA come in? They don’t. They were trying to groom a banned opposition leader (whose name I recall as Kozlov, but that may be wrong) but then discovered he was not willing to be their puppet, and the scheme was abandoned under Trump. The CIA were as taken aback by events as everybody else, and they don’t have any significant resources on the ground, or a Juan Gaido to jet in.

So where does Putin come in? Well, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation is a club of authoritarian ex-Soviet leaders. Interestingly, Uzbekistan never joined because Karimov always worried (with some justification) Putin might wish to depose him. President Tokayev’s call for help is a very definite sign of internal weakness. All the CSTO countries have an interest in discouraging popular unrest, so it is unsurprising they have sent in troops, but in numbers which can make no real difference in a vast country like Kazakhstan (which is really, really, really big).

So what happens next? I expect the regime will survive, but then neither I, nor any observer I know of, predicted this would happen in the first place. The unrest will be blamed, entirely untruthfully, on Islamic terrorists and western support. The real consequence may be in the globally important pipeline politics of the region, where there may be a long term shift away from China and towards Russia.

There will be frustration in Beijing as much as in Washington. Tokayev is now indebted to Putin in a way he never has been before. I can guarantee that emergency meetings at the highest level are taking place between the Kremlin and Gazprom right now to determine what they want to leverage from the situation. Putin, as Napoleon might have observed, is an extremely lucky general.

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Your Man in Saughton Jail Part 1 153

In my second week in Saughton jail, a prisoner pushed open the door of my cell and entered during the half hour period when we were unlocked to shower and use the hall telephone in the morning. I very much disliked the intrusion, and there was something in the attitude of the man which annoyed me – wheedling would perhaps be the best description. He asked if I had a bible I could lend him. Anxious to get him out of my cell, I replied no, I did not. He shuffled off.

I immediately started to feel pangs of guilt. I did in fact have a bible, which the chaplain had given me. It was, I worried, a very bad thing to deny religious solace to a man in prison, and I really had no right to act the way I did, based on an irrational distrust. I went off to take a shower, and on the way back to my cell was again accosted by the man.

“If you don’t have a Bible,” he said, “Do you have any other book with thin pages?”

He wanted the paper either to smoke drugs, or more likely to make tabs from a boiled up solution of a drug.

You cannot separate the catastrophic failure of the Scottish penal system – Scotland has the highest jail population per capita in all of Western Europe – from the catastrophic failure of drugs policy in Scotland. 90% of the scores of prisoners I met and spoke with had serious addiction problems. Every one of those was a repeat offender, back in jail, frequently for the sixth, seventh or eighth time. How addiction had led them to jail varied. They stole, often burgled, to feed their addiction. They dealt drugs in order to pay for their own use. They had been involved in violence – frequently domestic – while under the influence.

I had arrived in Saughton jail on Sunday 1 August. After being “seen off” by a crowd of about 80 supporters outside St Leonards police station, I had handed myself in there at 11am, as ordered by the court. The police were expecting me, and had conducted me to a holding area, where my possessions were searched and I was respectfully patted down. The police were very polite. I had been expecting to spend the night in a cell at St Leonards and to be taken to jail in a prison van on the Monday morning. This is what both my lawyers and a number of policemen had explained would happen.

In fact I was only half an hour in St Leonards before being put in a police car and taken to Saughton. This was pretty well unique – the police do not conduct people to prison in Scotland. At no stage was I manacled or handled and the police officers were very friendly. Reception at Saughton prison – where prisoners are not usually admitted on a Sunday – were also very polite, even courteous. None of this is what happens to an ordinary prisoner, and gives the lie to the Scottish government’s claim that I was treated as one.

I was not fingerprinted either in the police station or the jail, on the grounds I was a civil prisoner with no criminal conviction. At reception my overcoat and my electric toothbrush were taken from me, but my other clothing, notebook and book were left with me.

I was then taken to a side office to see a nurse. She asked me to list my medical conditions, which I did, including pulmonary hypertension, anti-phospholipid syndrome, Barrett’s oesophagus, atrial fibrillation, hiatus hernia, dysarthria and a few more. As she typed them in to her computer, options appeared on a dropdown menu for her to select the right one. It was plain to me she had no knowledge of several of these conditions, and certainly no idea how to spell them

The nurse cut me off very bluntly when I politely asked her a question about the management of my heart and blood conditions while in prison, saying someone would be round to see me in the morning. She then took away from me all the prescription medications I had brought with me, saying new ones would be issued by the prison medical services. She also took my pulse oximeter, saying the prison would not permit it, as it had batteries. I said it had been given to me by my consultant cardiologist, but she insisted it was against prison regulations.

This was the most disconcerting encounter so far. I was then walked by three prison officers along an extraordinarily long corridor – hundreds of yards long – with the odd side turning, which we we ignored. At the end of the corridor we reached Glenesk Block. The journey to my cell involved unlocking eight different doors and gates, including my cell door, every one of which was locked behind me. There was no doubt that this was very high security detention.

Once I reached floor 3 of Glenesk block, which houses the admissions wing, we acquired two further guards from the landing, so five people saw me into my cell. This was twelve feet by eight feet. May I suggest that you measure that out in your room? That was to be my world for the next four months. In fact I was to spend 95% of the next four months confined in that space.

The door was hard against one wall, leaving space within the 12 ft by 8 ft cell for a 4 ft by 4 ft toilet in one corner next the door. This was fully walled in, to the ceiling, and closed properly with an internal door. This little room contained a toilet and sink. The toilet had no seat. This was not an accident – I was not permitted a toilet seat, even if I provided it myself. It was a normal UK style toilet, designed to be used with a seat, with the two holes for the seat fixing, and a narrow porcelain rim.

The toilet was filthy. Below the waterline it was stained deep black with odd lumps and ridges. Above the waterline it was streaked and spotted with excrement, as was the rim. The toilet floor was in a disgusting state. The cell itself was dirty with, everywhere a wall or bolted down furniture met the floor, a ridge built up of hardened black dirt.

A female guard looked around the cell, then came back to give me rubber gloves, a surface cleaner spray and some cloths. So I spent my first few hours in my cell on my knees, scrubbing away furiously with these inadequate materials.

The female guard had advised me that even after cleaning the cell I should always keep shoes on, because of the mice. I heard them most nights in my cell, but never saw one. The prisoners universally claim them to be rats, but not having seen one I cannot say.

A guard later explained to me that prisoners are responsible for cleaning their own cells, but as nobody generally stayed in a new admissions cell for more than two or three nights, nobody bothered. Cells for new arrivals will be cleaned out by a prisoner work detail, but as I had arrived on a Sunday, that had not happened.

So about 3pm I was locked in the cell. At 5.20pm the door opened for two seconds to check I was still there, but that was it for the day. There I was confused, disoriented and struggling to take in that all this was really happening. I should describe the rest of the cell.

A narrow bed ran down one wall. I came to realise that prison in Scotland still includes an element of corporal punishment, in that the prisoner is very deliberately made physically uncomfortable. Not having a toilet seat is part of this, and so is the bed. It consists of an iron frame bolted to the floor and holding up a flat steel plate, completely unsprung. On this unyielding steel surface there is a mattress consisting simply of two inches of low grade foam – think cheap bath sponge – encased in a shiny red plastic cover, slashed or burnt through in several places and with the colour worn off down the centre.

The mattress was stamped with the date 2013 and had lost its structural resistance, to the extent that if I pinched it between my finger and thumb, I could compress it down to a millimetre. On the steel plate, this mattress had almost no effect and I woke up after a sleepless first night with acute pain throughout my muscles and difficulty walking. To repeat, this is deliberate corporal punishment – a massively superior mattress could be provided for about £30 more per prisoner, while in no way being luxurious. The beds and mattresses can only be designed to inflict both pain and, perhaps more important, humiliation. It is plainly quite deliberate policy.

It is emblematic of the extraordinary lack of intellectual consistency in the Scottish prisons system that cells are equipped with these Victorian punishment beds but also with TV sets showing 23 channels including two Sky subscription channels (of which I shall write more in another instalment). The bed is fixed along one long wall, while a twelve inch plywood shelf runs the length of the other and can serve as a desk. At one end, up against the wall of the toilet, this desk meets a built-in plywood shelving unit fixed into the floor, on top of which are sat the television and kettle next to two power points. At the other end of the desk, a further set of shelves are attached to the wall above. There is a plastic stackable chair of the cheapest kind – the sort you see stacked outside poundshops as garden furniture.

On the outside wall there is a small double glazed window with heavy, square iron bars two inches thick running both horizontally and vertically, like a noughts and crosses grid. The window does not open, but had metal ventilation strips down each side, which were stuck firmly closed with black grime. At the other end of the cell, next to the toilet, the heavy steel door is hinged so as to have a distinct gap all round between the door and the steel frame, like a toilet cubicle door.

Above the desk shelf is fixed a noticeboard, which is the only place prisoners are allowed to put up posters or photos. However as prisoners are not permitted drawing pins, staples, sellotape or blu tak, this was not possible. I asked advice from the guards who suggested I try toothpaste. I did – it didn’t work.

There is a single neon light tube.

The admissions unit has single-occupancy cells, of which there are very few in the rest of the jail. All the prison’s cells were designed for single occupancy, but massive overcrowding means that they are mostly in practice identical to this description, but with a bunk bed rather than a single bed.

The prison is divided into a number of blocks. Glenesk block had three floors, each containing 44 of these cells. Each floor is entered by a central staircase and has a centrally located desk where the guards are stationed. Either side of the desk are two heavy metal grills stretching right across the floor and dividing it into two wings. Within the central area is the kitchen where meals are collected (though not prepared), then eaten back locked in the cell.

The corridor between the cells either side of each wing is about 30 feet wide. It contains a pool table and fixed chairs and tables, and is conceived as a recreational area. There are two telephones at the end of each wing from which prisoners may call (at 10p a minute) numbers from a list they have pre-registered for approval.

The various cell blocks are located off that central spine corridor whose length astonished me at first admission. I did not realise then that this is a discreet building in itself rather than a corridor inside a building – it is like a long concrete overground tunnel.

I should describe my typical day the first ten weeks. At 7.30am the cell door springs open without warning as guards do a head count. The door is immediately locked again. At 8am cereals, milk and morning rolls are handed in, and the door is immediately locked again. At 10am I was released into the corridor for 30 minutes to shower and use the telephone. The showers are in an open room but with individual cubicles, contrary to prison movie cliche. At 10.30am I was locked in again.

At 11am I was released for one hour and escorted under supervision to plod around an enclosed, tarmac exercise yard about 40 paces by 20 paces. This yard is filthy and contains prison bins. One wing of Glenesk block forms one side, and the central spine corridor forms another; the wall of a branch corridor leading to another cell block forms a third and a fence dividing off that block a fourth. The walls are about 10 feet high and the fence about 16 feet high.

In the non-admissions, larger area of Glenesk block the cells had windows with opening narrow side panels. It is the culture of the prison that rather than keep rubbish in their cells and empty it out at shower time, the prisoners throw all rubbish out of their cell windows into the exercise yard. This includes food waste and plates, newspapers, used tissues and worse. At meal times, sundry items (bread, margarine etc) are available on a table outside the kitchen and some prisoners scoop up quantities simply to throw them out of the window into the yard.

I believe the origin of this is that this enclosed yard is used by protected prisoners, many of whom are sexual offenders. Glenesk house has a protected prisoner area on its second floor. “Mainstream” prisoners from Glenesk exercise on the astroturf five-a-side football pitch the other side of the spine corridor. (For four months that pitch was the view from my window and I never saw a game of football played. After three months the goals were removed.) New admissions exercise in the protected yard because they have not been sorted yet – that sorting is the purpose of the new admissions wing. New prisoners therefore have to plough through the filth prepared for protected prisoners.

At times large parts of this already small exercise yard were ankle deep in dross – it was cleaned out intermittently, probably on average every three weeks. Only on a couple of occasions was it so bad I decided against exercise. After exercise getting the sludge off my shoes as we went straight back to my cell was a concern. I now understood how the cell had got so dirty.

After exercise, at noon I collected my lunch and was locked back in the cell. Apart from 2 minutes to collect my tea, I would be locked in from noon until 10am the following morning, for 22 hours solid, every single day. In total I was locked in for 22 and a half hours a day for the first ten weeks. After that I was locked in my cell for 23 hours and 15 minutes a day due to a covid outbreak.

At 5pm the door would open for a final headcount, and then we would be on lockdown for the night, though in truth we had been locked down all day. Lockdown here meant the guards were going home.

Now I want you again to just mark out twelve feet by eight feet on your floor and put yourself inside it. Then imagine being confined inside that space a minimum of 22 and a half hours a day. For four months. These conditions were not peculiar to me – it is how all prisoners were living and are still living today. The library, gym and all educational activities had been closed “because of covid”. The resulting conditions are inhumane – few people would keep a dog like that.

It is also worth noting that Covid is an excuse. In September 2017 an official inspection report already noted that significant numbers of prisoners in Saughton were confined to cells for 22 hours a day. The root problem is massive overcrowding, and I shall write further on the causes of that in a future instalment.

The long concrete and steel corridors of the prison echo horribly, and after lockdown for the first time I felt rather scared. All round me prisoners were shouting out at the top of their voices. That first evening two were yelling death threats at another prisoner, with extreme expressions of hate and retribution. Inter-prisoner communication is by yelling out the window. This went on all night into the early hours of the morning. Prisoners were banging continually on the steel doors, sometimes for hours, calling out for guards who were not there. Somebody was crying out as though being attacked and in pain. There were sounds of plywood splintering as people smashed up their rooms.

It was unnerving because it seemed to me I was living amongst severely violent and out of control berserkers.

Part of the explanation of this is that for most prisoners the new admissions wing on first night is where they go through withdrawal symptoms. Many prisoners come in still drugged up. They are going through their private hell and desperate to get medication. I can understand (though not condone) why the prison medical staff are so remarkably bad and unhelpful. Their job and circumstances are very difficult.

On that first evening I was concerned that I did not have my daily medicines, and by the next morning my heart was getting distinctly out of synch. I was therefore relieved to receive the promised medical visit.

My cell door was opened and a nurse, flanked by two guards, addressed me from outside my cell. She asked if I had any addictions. I replied in the negative. I asked when I might receive my medicines. She said it was in process. I asked if I might get my pulse oximeter. She said the prison did not allow devices with batteries. I asked if my bed could somehow be propped or sloped because of my hiatus hernia (leading to gastric reflux) and Barrett’s oesophagus. She said she didn’t think that the prison could do that. I asked about management of my blood condition (APS), saying I was supposed to exercise regularly and not sit for long periods. She replied by asking if I would like to see the psychiatric team. I replied no. She left.

I was taken out to exercise alone, with four guards watching me. I felt like Rudolf Hess. In the lunch queue I met my first prisoners, who were respectful and polite. The day passed much as the first, and I still did not get my medicines on the Monday. They arrived on the Tuesday morning, as did the prison governor.

I was told the governor had come to see me, and I met him in the (closed) Glenesk library. David Abernethy is a taciturn man who looks like a rugby prop and has a reputation among prisoners as a disciplinarian, compared to other prison regimes in Scotland. He was accompanied by John Morrison, Glenesk block manager, a friendly Ulsterman, who did most of the talking.

I was an anomaly in that Saughton did not normally hold civil prisoners. The Governor told me he believed I was their first civil prisoner in four years, and before that in ten. Civil prisoners should be held separately from criminal prisoners, but Saughton had no provision for that. The available alternatives were these: I could move into general prisoner population, which would probably involve sharing a cell; I could join the protected prisoners; or I could stay where I was on admissions.

On the grounds that nothing too terrible had happened to me yet, I decided to stay where I was and serve my sentence on admissions.

They wished to make plain to me that it was their job to hold me and it was not for them to make any comment on the circumstances that brought me to jail. I told them I held no grudge against them and had no reason to complain of any of the prison officers who had (truthfully) so far all been very polite and friendly to me. I asked whether I could have books I was using for research brought to me from my library at home; I understood this was not normally allowed. I was also likely to receive many books sent by well-wishers. The governor said he would consider this. They also instructed, at my request, extra pillows to be brought to prop up the head of my bed due to my hiatus hernia.

That afternoon a guard came along (I am not going to give the names except for senior management, as the guards might not wish it) with the pillows, and said he had been instructed I was a VIP prisoner and should be looked after. I replied I was not a VIP, but was a civil prisoner, and therefore had different rights to other prisoners.

He said that the landing guards suggested that I should take my exercise and shower/phone time at the same time as other mainstream new admission prisoners (sexual offender and otherwise protected new admission prisoners had separate times). I had so far been kept entirely apart, but perhaps I would prefer to meet people? I said I would prefer that.

So the next day I took my exercise in that filthy yard in the company of four other prisoners, all new arrivals the night before. I thus observed for the first time something which astonished me. Once in the yard, the new prisoners (who on this occasion arrived individually, not all part of the same case), immediately started to call out to the windows of Glenesk block, shouting out for friends.

“Hey, Jimmy! Jimmy! It’s me Joe! I am back. Is Paul still in? What’s that? Gone tae Dumfries? Donnie’s come in? That’s brilliant.”

The realisation dropped, to be reinforced every day, that Saughton jail is a community, a community where the large majority of the prisoners all know each other. That does not mean they all like each other – there are rival gangs, and enmities. But prison is a routine event in not just their lives, but the lives of their wider communities. Those communities are the areas of deprivation of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh is a city of astonishing social inequality. It contains many of the areas in the bottom 10% of multiple social deprivation in Scotland (dark red on the map below). These are often a very short walk from areas of great affluence in the top 10% (dark blue on the map). Of course, few people make that walk. But I recommend a spell in Saughton jail to any other middle class person who, like myself, was foolish enough to believe that Scotland is a socially progressive country.

The vast majority of prisoners I met came from the red areas on these maps. The same places came up again and again – including Granton, Pllton, Oxgangs, Muirhouse, Lochend, and from West Lothian, Livingston and Craigshill. Saughton jail is simply where Edinburgh locks away 900 of its poorest people, who were born into extreme poverty and often born into addiction. Many had parents and grandparents also in Saughton jail.

A large number of prisoners have known institutionalisation throughout their lives; council care and foster homes leading to young offenders’ institutions and then prison. A surprising number have very poor reading and writing skills. The overcrowding of our prisons is a symptom not just of failed justice and penal policy, but of fundamentally flawed economic, social and educational systems.

Of which I shall also write more later. Here, on this first day with a group in the exercise yard, I was mystified as the prisoners started going up to the ground floor windows and the guards started shouting “keep away from the windows! Stand back from the windows” in a very agitated fashion, but to no effect. Eventually they removed one man and sent him back to his cell, though he seemed no more guilty than the others.

By the next week I had learnt what was happening. At exercise the new admissions prisoners get drugs passed to them through the window by their friends who have been in the prison longer and had time to get their supply established. These drugs are passed as paper tabs, as pills or in vape tubes. There appears no practical difficulty at all in prisoners getting supplied with plentiful drugs in Saughton. Every single day I was to witness new admissions prisoners getting their drugs at the window from friends, and every single day I witnessed this curious charade of guards shouting and pretending to try and stop them.

My first few days in Saughton had introduced me to an unknown, and sometimes frightening, world, of which I shall be telling you more.

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Liz Truss and the Booze

UPDATE It appears that the Guardian article on which this comment is based is factually incorrect on the price of the wine (the Guardian said the price was per bottle, which now seems to be untrue) and on the amount of gin (the Guardian says 2 bottles – as had the Sunday Times – when in fact it was two measures). So much of what I said did not make sense to me, does now in fact make sense. Frankly I should know better than to follow the Guardian uncritically, and what was always a minor piece by me now looks foolish. I leave it up with this update and explanation, if only as a reminder of my own fallibility…

ORIGINAL ARTICLE BEGINS

Hogmanay having just passed, it seems topical to write about alcohol, and I was struck by a very strange account in the Guardian of a dinner Liz Truss gave for a US trade delegation headed by the US trade secretary. The story is that she insisted on holding it at a private club owned by a Tory donor, and it was originally billed at £3,000 (though civil servants beat it down to £1,400).

Patronising a Tory donors’ establishment at public expense is obviously very dodgy. But I may part company with most of my readers when I say that the eventual cost of £1,400 is not massively over-expensive for a ministerial level dinner between trade delegations. The Guardian does not say how many people were involved, but judging by the drinks (of which more follows) I would guess at least 16. Having spent a career in diplomacy, the projection of a sense of power and importance by hospitality plays an important role since long before Henry VIII and the Field of the Cloth of Gold. Establishing good feeling and personal relationships between negotiating teams really is essential to the outcome of a prolonged and detailed negotiation. Perhaps the world ought not be like that, and it should not make a difference if ministers hosted delegations for dinner in the canteen, but it does make a difference.

In fact, you may be surprised that what initially struck me in the article was that the wines were not good enough to serve at such an occasion. From the Guardian:

Truss and her companions drank two bottles of dry gin, three £153 bottles of Pazo Barrantes Albariño, a Spanish white wine and two bottles of the French red Coudoulet de Beaucastel at £130 a bottle, it was reported.

I know the Albarino, and it is not especially good. In fact, as Trade Secretary Truss could have served a better English white wine at the same price. The Coudoulet de Beaucastel is a fairly robust Cotes Du Rhone and a surprising choice, even if only for American palates. These are £20 wines, at any vintage.

Now I am very aware that restaurants mark up wines shamelessly, generally around 300%, but £150 each for £20 wine? The club owner is half brother to Zac Goldsmith, and Truss’s desire to ingratiate herself with potential leadership bid allies has plainly overtaken her common sense. Paying lots of money for wine below the standard for the occasion is just useless.

Which brings me to the two bottles of gin. If the club charges £153 for a £20 bottle of Albarino, I presume it charges around £150 for a £20 bottle of gin. Which would give you a total booze bill of over £1,000 (assuming the mixers were free). That would leave only £400 for food, which would indicate in this kind of club rather too few people to drink that much booze.

You are just going to have to take my word for this, but American official delegations are highly abstemious when it comes to booze. I speak from long experience. British and other European diplomats are very happy to get stuck in, but the American official culture denigrates anything but the odd polite sip while on duty. I have been at dinners polishing off a sirloin steak washed down with lots of Margaux, and looking forward to the port, while the Americans opposite me toyed with their Caesar salads and drank iced water. Two bottles of gin and five bottles of wine at a dinner with an American delegation? Very peculiar.

I should say that I hosted a Belgian delegation at the National Liberal Club, a private club of which I was a member, while negotiating the UK/Belgium maritime boundary. It is not wrong to use a private club per se for public entertaining, and the NLC was both an impressive venue and tremendous value for money. There are also beautiful government venues where such events can be hosted – the Locarno Suite in the FCDO and the Painted Hall at Greenwich Maritime College being examples I used personally. It is not at all difficult to do much better than Truss did, much cheaper.

I do realise this is a trivial matter, but it sparked my interest for obvious reasons.

On the very much more important question, the interest in the United States government in negotiating a trade deal with the UK is very small indeed. Powerful protectionist lobbies in, inter alia, the spirits and financial services sectors in the USA are strongly negative, and the US farming lobby – the most obvious potential beneficiary – would only gain in the event of a relaxation of UK food standards that appears, thankfully, politically impossible. So the actual talks Truss was involved in are going nowhere, and doing so very slowly.

I am writing on my prison experiences and hope to publish the first article on that here tomorrow. Happy New Year everybody!

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Protecting the Nazis: The Extraordinary Vote of Ukraine and the USA

This is verbatim from the official report of the UN General Assembly plenary of 16 December 2021:

The Assembly next took up the report on “Elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance”, containing two draft resolutions.

By a recorded vote of 130 in favour to 2 against (Ukraine, United States), with 49 abstentions, the Assembly then adopted draft resolution I, “Combating glorification of Nazism, neo‑Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance”.

By its terms, the Assembly expressed deep concern about the glorification of the Nazi movement, neo‑Nazism and former members of the Waffen SS organization, including by erecting monuments and memorials, holding public demonstrations in the name of the glorification of the Nazi past, the Nazi movement and neo‑Nazism, and declaring or attempting to declare such members and those who fought against the anti‑Hitler coalition, collaborated with the Nazi movement and committed war crimes and crimes against humanity “participants in national liberation movements”.

Further, the Assembly urged States to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination by all appropriate means, including through legislation, urging them to address new and emerging threats posed by the rise in terrorist attacks incited by racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance, or in the name of religion or belief. It would call on States to ensure that education systems develop the necessary content to provide accurate accounts of history, as well as promote tolerance and other international human rights principles. It likewise would condemn without reservation any denial of or attempt to deny the Holocaust, as well as any manifestation of religious intolerance, incitement, harassment or violence against persons or communities on the basis of ethnic origin or religious belief.

In Ukraine, support for the Ukrainian nationalist divisions who fought alongside the Nazis has become, over the last eight years, the founding ideology of the modern post 2013 Ukrainian state (which is very different from the diverse Ukrainian state which briefly existed 1991-2013). The full resolution on nazism and racism passed by the General Assembly is lengthy, unnzaires but these provisions in particular were voted against by the United States and by the Ukraine:

6. Emphasizes the recommendation of the Special Rapporteur that “any commemorative celebration of the Nazi regime, its allies and related organizations, whether official or unofficial, should be prohibited by States”, also emphasizes that such manifestations do injustice to the memory of the countless victims of the Second World War and negatively influence children and young people, and stresses in this regard that it is important that States take measures, in accordance with international human rights law, to counteract any celebration of the Nazi SS organization and all its integral parts, including the Waffen SS;

7. Expresses concern about recurring attempts to desecrate or demolish monuments erected in remembrance of those who fought against Nazism during the Second World War, as well as to unlawfully exhume or remove the remains of such persons, and in this regard urges States to fully comply with their relevant obligations, inter alia, under article 34 of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions of 1949;

10. Condemns without reservation any denial or attempt to deny the Holocaust;

11. Welcomes the call of the Special Rapporteur for the active preservation of those Holocaust sites that served as Nazi death camps, concentration and forced labour camps and prisons, as well as his encouragement of States to take measures, including legislative, law enforcement and educational measures, to put an end to all forms of Holocaust denial

As reported in the Times of Israel, hundreds took part in a demonstration in Kiev in May 2021, and others throughout Ukraine, in honour of a specific division of the SS. That is but one march and one division – glorification of its Nazi past is a mainstream part of Ukrainian political culture.

In 2018 a bipartisan letter by 50 US Congressmen condemned multiple events commemorating Nazi allies held in Ukraine with official Ukrainian government backing.

There are no two ways about it. The Ukrainian vote against the UN resolution against Nazism was motivated by sympathy for the ideology of historic, genocide active Nazis. It is as simple as that.

The United States claims that its vote against was motivated by concern for freedom of speech. We have the Explanation of Vote that the United States gave at the committee stage:

The United States Supreme Court has consistently affirmed the constitutional right to freedom of speech and the rights of peaceful assembly and association, including by avowed Nazis

That sounds good and noble. But consider this – why does the United States Government believe that avowed Nazis have freedom of speech, but that Julian Assange does not? You can have freedom of speech to advocate the murder of Jews and immigrants, but not to reveal US war crimes?

Why was the United States government targeting journalists in the invasion of Iraq? The United States believes in freedom of speech when it serves its imperial interests. It does not do so otherwise. This is the very worst kind of high sounding hypocrisy, in aid of defending the Nazis in Ukraine.

The second reason the United States gives is that Russia is making the whole thing up:

a document most notable for its thinly veiled attempts to legitimize Russian disinformation campaigns denigrating neighboring nations and promoting the distorted Soviet narrative of much of contemporary European history, using the cynical guise of halting Nazi glorification

The problem here is that it is very difficult to portray the Times of Israel or 50 bipartisan US congressmen as a Russian disinformation campaign. There is no historical doubt whatsoever of Ukrainian nationalist forces active support of Nazism and participation in genocide, not just of Jews and Roma but of Poles and religious minorities. There is no doubt whatsoever of the modern glorification in Ukraine of these evil people.

It is of course not just Ukraine. In Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania the record of collaboration with Nazis, of active participation in fighting for Nazis, and in active participation in genocide is extremely shaming. Throughout Eastern Europe there is a failure in these “victim nations” to look history squarely in the eye and to admit what happened – a failure the United States in actually promoting as “a campaign against Russian disinformation”.

I recommend to you the website www.defendinghistory.com, run by the admirable David Katz, which is a large and valuable resource on this website from a Lithuanian Jewish perspective that cannot remotely be dismissed as Russian or left wing propaganda. The front page currently features the December 2021 naming of a square in the capital after Lithuanian “freedom fighter” Juokas Luksa “Daumantas”, a man who commenced the massacre of Jews in Vilnius ahead of the arrival of German forces.

These are precisely the kind of commemorations the resolution is against. There has been a rash of destruction of Soviet war memorials and even war graves, and erection of commemorations, in various form, of Nazis throughout the Baltic states. That is what paras 6 and 7 of the resolution refer to, and there is no doubt whatsoever of the truth of these events. It is not “Russian disinformation”.

However the European Union, in support of its Baltic states members and their desire to forget or deny historical truth and to build a new national myth expunging their active role in the genocide of their Jewish and Roma populations, would not support the UN Resolution on Nazism. The EU countries abstained, as did the UK. The truth of course is that NATO intends to use the descendants of Eastern European racists against Russia much as Hitler did, at least in a cold war context.

You won’t find that in the Explanation of Vote.

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Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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The Mind Numbing Hypocrisy of the Supreme Court

In July, the Supreme Court refused to hear my appeal against eight months imprisonment for Contempt of Court by the High Court of Edinburgh. And yet yesterday they issued a judgment stating in the strongest possible terms that there should be a right of appeal in Contempt of Court cases.

33. If there were no right of appeal from the decision on contempt of the First
Instance Panel, that would represent a serious lacuna in the law. That is because it is
well-accepted that there ought to be a right of appeal by the defendant in a contempt
matter that may result in imprisonment or a fine. This was expressed in very strong
terms by the 1959 Report entitled Contempt of Court by Justice (chaired by Lord
Shawcross). The Justice Report preceded section 13 of the Administration of Justice Act
1960 and said, at p 35:
“At present there is no right of appeal against any decision or
punishment for any criminal contempt whether it is
committed in the presence of the court or out of court. As no
human being is infallible, and as any sentence of
imprisonment involves a basic question of civil liberty, it is
not surprising to find that in every system of law of any
civilised State there is always a right of appeal against any
sentence of imprisonment. For contempt of court alone can
an Englishman be sent to prison by a court from whose
decision there is no appeal. … Even in enemy-occupied
territory in time of war, there must, under the Hague
Convention, always be some right of appeal or petition
against any sentence of imprisonment …”

“in every system of law of any civilised State there is always a right of appeal against any sentence of imprisonment.” That is the maxim they quoted with approval. They used it to allow an extraordinary appeal from the Supreme Court to the Supreme Court for the solicitor, Mr Tim Crosland, who had been fined £5,000. (Having agreed to hear the appeal, they found against him).

So the Supreme Court has ruled that there must be a right to appeal against imprisonment, unless your name is Craig Murray, you are connected to Julian Assange, you are a war on terror whistleblower, a fundamental Scottish Independence supporter or otherwise regarded by the state as a dissident outside the normal realm of respectability.

Remember that the fine words above are from the same Supreme Court that refused me a right of appeal. What a bunch of stinking hypocrites.

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Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Nicola Sturgeon’s Motivation

It is a simple fact that, to get any senior international job, be it at the United Nations, the IMF, the World Bank, NATO, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, or any other intergovernmental organisation, you must have the endorsement of your own government. In the case of Nicola Sturgeon, that means the endorsement of the state recognised by those organisations, which is the United Kingdom.

There are precedents for UK governments helping opposition figures whom they find congenial into international posts. But if Nicola crosses the line of enmity with the UK government, her own primary aspirations for future career and income will be finished.

As a young diplomat I had a starry-eyed view of the aims of the United Nations and presumed that the UN Secretariat was staffed by people who shared those ideals. It was a great shock to discover that UN offices were often staffed by cynical time-servers who had been put into the gig by the ruling class of their home state. There are no dissidents in the UN Secretariat. The fact that Chinese apparatchiks or Saudi royal hangers-on proved not really to be particularly dedicated to famine relief for Liberian refugees in Ivory Coast ought not to have been shocking to me, but was. What has come out to date about sexual exploitation of vulnerable women in crisis situations by UN staff I know very well to be the tip of the iceberg.

If you do have the support of your government, the opportunities are far greater than you can imagine. Do you remember Danny Alexander, the extraordinarily untalented Lib Dem politician who before entering parliament was the publicity man for the Cairngorm chairlift? Sturgeon certainly recalls him, and the fact that Alexander is now Vice President of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, living in great luxury in Beijing, and pulling down even more money than the Murrells.

How did that happen? Well, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is in fact an intergovernmental organisation, and the UK government is a founding shareholder. After betraying Lib Dem voters and helping George Osborne impose austerity on the public as a coalition minister, the Tories gave “Sir” Daniel Alexander a knighthood and shoehorned him in to his splendid office at the AIIB, after the Scottish electorate had very sensibly booted him out of parliament.

If a political nobody like Danny Alexander can land such rich pickings, what kind of vistas might open up before Nicola? Her CV drops onto the rich walnut desks in the plush offices of major international organisations, as often as condominium brochures. Her international schmoozing is endless. She presents herself on the international stage not as the champion of an Independent Scotland – a subject she tends to avoid – but as a dynamic exponent of Clinton style politics and a stalwart upholder of the neo-conservative world order.

Sturgeon, and the SNP under her, supports the British government’s pivot towards projecting military power into the Pacific, supports NATO deployment of missiles on the Russian border, supports the Royal Navy in its incursions in the Black Sea, supports the destabilisation of Syria, supports each and every claim about curiously unsuccessful deployments of novichok, even supports a switch from unilateral to multilateral nuclear disarmament as outlined by her Westminster MPs Alyn Smith and Stewart MacDonald. She loudly condemns Alex Salmond for appearing on Russia Today.

In short, Sturgeon makes sure that Westminster knows she is 100% on board with the British government’s foreign policy agenda, with Britnat military adventurism and with neo-imperial force projection by the ludicrous British aircraft carrier force. She is a perfectly safe pair of Britnat foreign policy hands to be assisted into an international job.

What greater service can there be to the British state than ensuring its continuation?

With the opinion polls showing over 55% in favour of Scottish Independence, Nicola Sturgeon, just as she did in the last sustained surge of Independence support, stands holding the bridge for the union by preventing any action at all towards Independence at this, the key moment.

Independence support over 55% even with no campaign? Unionists a majority only in the over 60s? Boris Johnson and his Westminster government massively unpopular?

The Union appears to be in the gravest of danger. But do not worry, Nicola is there to save the Union, diverting the Independence movement into a choice selection of utterly blind alleys, labeled “COVID freeze”, “Gender Reform”, “Economic Recovery” and “S30 Memorandum”. Nicola will go down in history alongside the Duke of Cumberland as one of the greatest servants of British Unionism.

COVID has not prevented the greatest of changes in power, a US Presidential election, nor has it prevented general elections in Germany, Austria and numerous other countries. That it prevents action on Independence is plainly a nonsense. What COVID has allowed Nicola to do is play to her strength – fine presentational skills and an aura of managerial competence. She worked out early that the public are highly motivated by fear and prefer their politicians to err on the side of more, rather than less, restriction. Appearing more in control than Johnson has not been difficult; nor has the continual adoption of just marginally more restrictive measures than England.

If Independence were truly her goal, then the time to bank the “more competent than England” COVID kudos in the Independence cause is now – its shelf life will be limited. But Independence is not her goal. A continuing build-up of Sturgeon kudos to take to market for Sturgeon is her goal. On one question, Nicola has undoubtedly proven the science. Face masks can, properly used, be 100% effective in preventing action on Independence.

Those who believed Nicola Sturgeon was going, as she promised, to deliver an Independence referendum in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 now believe that she will deliver one in 2023. There are those who refuse to remember that her great capitulation over Johnson’s refusal to grant an S30 was on 8 March 2019, before we had even heard the word COVID.

Sturgeon will not hold a referendum in 2023. This is what she will do:

In 2023, or just beforehand, she will write to Boris Johnson or a Tory successor and request Section 30 permission to hold a referendum. The Tory PM will refuse. Sturgeon will then instruct the Lord Advocate to go to court in order to win the Scottish Government’s right to hold a referendum. The Scottish Government will lose in court. The Supreme Court in London will uphold the supremacy of the UK Parliament, as a whole series of Supreme Court judgments have made clear – including the judgment that the Sewel Convention cannot be binding on the UK parliament as it is supreme, and that the Scottish Parliament has no power to incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scottish law.

The Scottish Courts will in all probability rule the same before even getting to the UK Supreme Court – as foreshadowed by their judgment against the heroic Martin Keatings in which they dismissed the standing of the Scottish people and with it the legal force of the Claim of Right.

I am very sorry to tell you that the courts will be right. Under UK domestic law the UK parliament is sovereign and Scotland does indeed have no right, according to the colonial regime, to hold an independence referendum. Sturgeon knows this too. The authority Sturgeon really listens to on the subject, Professor Aileen McHarg of Durham University, has stated the case at length.

So consider this. Nicola Sturgeon is not a fool. She does not really believe that a Tory PM is going to grant a S30 Order for an Independence Referendum where unionist defeat is probable. (David Cameron only had agreed because at the time Yes was 32% in the polls). Nicola Sturgeon also knows that the UK Supreme court is not going to rule in the Scottish parliament’s favour.

There simply is no route to Independence that leads through London. Yet Nicola states the path through London is the only path and no Plan B may even be considered. London is accepted as the arbiter of what is legal. Sturgeon insists on taking only routes which she knows will fail, and condemns all alternatives as illegal.

So Nicola Sturgeon has delayed action on Independence for years, continues to do so, and looking ahead to the possibility of eventually being forced to move, she insists on a route that is impossible. Why?

There is only one answer. Nicola has no intention of achieving Independence. She wants international kudos as a good manager of Scotland who supported US hegemony, and then a decent international job to move into, leaving Scotland behind. The amount she cares about what happens to Scotland after that is limited.

I trust Dominic Cummings less far than I can throw him, but I believed Cummings when he stated Boris Johnson did say of COVID “Let the bodies pile high”. I also believe his revelation that Sturgeon has informed Johnson, through her staff, that she does not want an Independence referendum before the next Westminster election in 2024.

This is entirely consistent with close observation of Sturgeon’s behaviour. The SNP have made no budgetary provision for a referendum and are remarkably pre-occupied with arguing about boundary changes for future UK, Westminster parliamentary elections.

This also ties in with my own Tory sources, who tell me that through chief of staff channels, Sturgeon has suggested to Johnson he might agree a three question referendum after the next Holyrood election, with a form of “Devo Max” as a middle option that would be sure to win. There are many SNP MPs and MSPs who now see “Devo Max” as a safer option than Independence, in terms of the potential risk to their own careers from an Independence bid. The comfy parliamentary pensions brigade are now very, very attracted to Devo Max.

The truth is that there is another route to Independence, which Nicola does everything to deny even being discussed.

The domestic law of the larger state cannot constrain the right to self determination of the nation or people wishing to leave. Otherwise Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia would still be in the Soviet Union. As I have frequently explained, this precise position was taken by the United Kingdom in the Kosovo case and endorsed by the International Court of Justice. Indeed, if the state seceded from could simply forbid it, a great deal of decolonisation would never had happened.

Scotland does not need the permission of England. Neither the Westminster Parliament nor the UK Supreme Court can remove the Scottish people’s inalienable right of self-determination under the UN Charter. There is no requirement in international law for a referendum in order to become independent – the majority of states in the world achieved independence without a referendum. If the UK state refuses one, Scotland must declare Independence through a National Assembly of its combined Holyrood and UK parliamentarians, and hold a confirmatory plebiscite as an independent state. Brexit has made the task of gaining international recognition very much simpler.

There is a single test of Scottish Independence – recognition by the United Nations. The domestic law of the UK is completely irrelevant.

That would require a leader of the nation for whom Independence is an overriding priority. Which will never be Nicola Sturgeon.

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Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Your Man Back in the Public Gallery: Assange Extradition, US Appeal Result

On Thursday afternoon I was in Edinburgh High Court to get back my passport, which had been confiscated during my own court proceedings avowedly to stop me going to Spain to testify in the trial of David Morales of UC Global. He stands accused by whistleblowers in his own company of spying on Julian Assange, his lawyers and other associates (including myself), on behalf of the CIA, and in engaging with them on plans to kidnap or assassinate Assange.

Having got my passport, I was wandering down the Canongate to buy a new sporran. I fear that I only wear my kilt on occasions where I end up not at all sober, and invariably spend the next morning wondering what on earth happened to my tie, left hose, mobile phone etc. The loss of a sporran is a particularly expensive experience. While explaining to the maker that my sporran needs a long chain to accommodate my finely matured figure, my phone rang and I was asked whether I could get to the High Court in London by 9.45am, as the judgement in the United States’ appeal in Julian’s extradition case was imminent. Waverley Station being a short walk down a steep close from the sporran maker, and with the agreement of Nadira and the rest of my long suffering family, I was off to England.

The Royal Courts of Justice have nothing of the grimness of the Old Bailey, or of Woolwich Crown Court inside Belmarsh Prison. They are Victorian Gothic at its least inspired and most gingerbread house cheesy, as though Mad King Ludwig was working on a straitened budget. Once inside there is no visible security of any kind, and the courtrooms are laid out in aged oak benches like the smaller lecture rooms of an old university.

A lovely man named Derek had been at the front of the queue for me since 5am, but his kindness turned out to be unnecessary. For the first time at any Assange hearing, nobody asked me for identification papers or fired inappropriate questions about why I was at a public hearing. At the reception desk I asked where the Assange judgement would be given, and was told Court No.1, but that there was no point in attending because copies of the judgement would simply be handed out.

I walked with my friend, Assange activist Deepa, to Court No.1 shortly after 9.30, and there was nobody else there except one reporter from Reuters. Over the next half hour about twenty other people turned up, mostly journalists but including a few European activists. There was no sign of Julian and no sign of either legal team. Julian’s fiancee Stella Moris arrived just before ten, and we were allowed in to the courtroom. The clerk of court told us there would be no lawyers present so we could sit anywhere we wished. Reporters and activists jumbled in the first two rows immediately below the judge’s bench. I sat alongside Stella in the fourth row, and shortly before the judge appeared, Gareth Peirce (Julian’s solicitor) arrived and simply took a seat also in the fourth row. The well of the court was perhaps a third full, and the public gallery above was completely empty.

It is important to explain that Stella did not know the judgement at this stage. We had spoken briefly before going in and we were not hopeful, but she sat there awaiting the decision on whether Julian might be home for Christmas, or potentially in jail for many more years, with enormous composure and self-control. I had spoken with her the night before on the telephone and knew she was in serious emotional distress. But here in public, she did not betray it at all.

Lord Justice Holroyde entered and read out a brief summary of the judgement. Lord Chief Justice Burnett, the other member of the two man panel, apparently had better things to do. It was evident after a few seconds that the insufferably smug Holroyde was going to find in favour of the United States Government.

Julian was not present, neither in person nor by videolink. That judgement should be given on a prisoner in the presence neither of himself nor of his counsel seems to me a quite extraordinary proceeding. The entire event felt wrong. I was aware that Julian was unwell, and that he had been very unwell at the hearing in October on which this was a judgement. Mary Kostakidis has constructed an edit of those tweets from her reporting on that day which referenced Julian’s state of health. What we did not know was that he was actually suffering a stroke.

(In her retweeting the original relevant tweets, they have all ended up dated 12 December, but these are in fact Mary’s tweets from the courtroom in October).

What I can tell you from personal experience is that the appalling standard of healthcare is the single worst thing about prison, and the callous disregard of prisoners’ lives an ingrained feature of the system, about which I shall write more in due course.

So Holroyde briefly announced to the world the capitulation to the United States. His argument was simple and short. The High Court accepted that Baraitser had rightly judged the expert evidence on Assange’s health, so the diagnoses of serious depression and autism stand. However she had erred in not seeking diplomatic assurances from the United States that he would be kept in conditions that would not trigger suicide. Holroyde’s argument rested entirely on the Diplomatic Note received from the US government containing these assurances. They constituted, he stated, a “solemn assurance from one state to another”, as though that were a thing of unimpeachable surety.

Holroyde did not address the point that these were assurances from the very state whose war crimes and multiple breaches of international law Assange had exposed, resulting in this very extradition in the first place.
He did not address the fact that the United States has a record of breaking exactly these kind of assurances on prisoner conditions, and there is substantial European Court of Human Rights case law on the subject. In fact the legal force of diplomatic assurances has been the subject of a massive opus of recent jurisprudence that Holroyde simply ignored.
He did not address the fact that the very assurances in this Diplomatic Note were shot through with conditionalities.
He did not address the fact that repeated US court decisions stated that US domestic authorities were not bound by any diplomatic assurances given to foreign governments (which incidentally is precisely the same argument, accepted by Baraitser, that UK courts are not bound by the UK/US extradition treaty bar on political extradition).
He did not address the fact that the majority of the charges against Assange in the extradition request were now exposed as based on perjured evidence from a convicted paedophile and fraudster in the pay of the CIA, which some might see as reflecting poorly on the US authorities’ bona fides.
He did not address the fact that the government whose assurances as to treatment he viewed as unquestionable, had been plotting to kidnap or assassinate the subject of the extradition.

Holroyde whisked away in a flurry of dusty robes and horsehair wiggery. Gareth Peirce had advance knowledge of the result, but had been barred from telling anybody. She had been informed lawyers were not to attend court, but had come along to offer moral support, and simply sat with the public. Edward Fitzgerald QC, Julian’s counsel, was simultaneously giving the decision to Julian in the jail.

My admiration for Gareth is undisguised. In my view she is the greatest UK lawyer of post-war history, a notion I know she would find laughable. I also know she will be a bit cross about my writing about her, as she detests the limelight. If you don’t know of her, do a little research just now. I have been extremely fortunate in life to know many great people, but Gareth is the one of whose regard I am proudest. Anyway, Gareth was really cross about the judgement.

The effect of the judgement is that the case is now returned to Judge Baraitser with the instruction to reverse her decision and order Assange’s extradition. In doing so she passes the papers up to the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, with whom the final decision on all extraditions lies. Julian has until 23 December to submit an appeal against this High Court decision to the Supreme Court, something he is minded to do.

Now read this very carefully. The United States Government’s appeal to the High Court was only on those points on which Baraitser had ruled against extradition – Assange’s mental health and the effect upon it of extradition and US prisoner conditions. Assange’s appeal now to the Supreme Court will also be restricted to those subjects. The points on which Baraitser originally ruled in favour of the United States, including Assange’s First Amendment protections and the right of freedom of speech, the bar on political extradition and the inapplicability of espionage charges to journalism – will only be heard later, if he loses at the Supreme Court on what is still the US appeal.

If the Supreme Court decides for the US on the basis of diplomatic assurances, and the case returns to Baraitser to exercise the extradition warrant, at that time we finally have the cross appeal on all the issues this case is really about. If the High Court then accepts the cross-appeal as arguable (and Holroyde stated specifically that Assange’s wider points of appeal “would be heard at a later stage in proceedings”), then Patel’s trigger itching hand will be stayed while we restart the appeals process, quite possibly back to Holroyde and Burnett.

This benefits the Machiavellian state in two ways. For up to another year the legal argument will continue to be about Julian’s mental health, where the self-disparagement required by his defence suits the state political narrative. Nobody inside court is currently permitted to be talking about freedom of speech or the exposure of US war crimes, and that of course feeds in to the MSM reporting.

The state also is happy that this convoluted Supreme Court and then cross-appeal process will last for years not months, even before we look at the European Court of Human Rights, and all that time Julian Assange is stuck in high security in Belmarsh jail, treated as a terrorist, and his mental and physical health are visibly deteriorating in a way that is simply horrible. It is not hyperbole to state we may well be watching his slow murder by the state. It certainly appears now probable that he will never fully regain his health. The Julian who went into captivity is not the same man we would get back if ever released.

My worry is that I have no confidence that there is any hope of fairness in the judicial process. I most certainly would not wish anybody’s destiny in the hands of the supercilious Holroyde. There seems no alternative but to batter on through the endless Jarndyce vs Jarndyce, but I fear we are but dignifying a cruel charade. Political will, rather than judicial sense, appears the more likely route to a breakthrough. But I look at Johnson, Biden and Morrison and I see no more conscience, principle or probity than I do on the judicial bench.

There does appear to be a recognition in the mainstream media that aspects of the prosecution are a real threat to journalism even in the muted way that the mainstream media pursue the profession. Persuading the fourth estate to use their influence on key politicians, backed by popular mobilisation including online, appears to be the most hopeful tactic at the moment. But it is a hard and bitter slog.

On leaving the High Court, Stella and I both gave impromptu speeches to the waiting crowd and media. The BBC carried this live until I mentioned US war crimes, when they hurriedly cut it off. These below are the full speeches, and the video should start at the right point. We had come straight from consulting with Gareth after hearing the judgement, so remember what I have told you and consider how extraordinarily well Stella coped and spoke here. How can we not continue to fight?

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Concentration of Power

Well, it is nice to be free again, though as I said on release, I shall never really feel free while Julian is still imprisoned and while Scotland is still part of an imperialist United Kingdom. I expect most of you have seen my release, but for those who have not:

The support of readers of this blog was particularly important to maintaining my mental health while in jail. Well over 2,000 people wrote to me in prison by post or by the peculiar prisoner email service (emails were printed out and given to me – I then hand-wrote replies which were scanned and sent by the jail). I read every word sent to me, and was very grateful for the books, magazines, poetry and the stories of people’s lives. It was companionship.

It also gave me much more of a feel for the community who read this blog, which truly is worldwide. I particularly treasured all those who wrote to say that they sometimes – or even generally – disagree with what I write, but enjoy the intellectual exercise and supply of under-reported facts and independent opinion. Because as regular readers know, it has always been my intention to activate thought and to inform; never to cultivate unthinking support. That seems to have succeeded splendidly well, as people sent me reams of argument on what they feel I am wrong about; which I much enjoyed.

I shall write about prison and the justice system in the coming days and weeks. I learnt a very great deal. But today as I get my own writing muscles working again, I thought I would give you my overview on COP26.

If Glasgow 2021 is remembered at all, it will be as the moment when big finance came to the party. Politicians and those who control them now largely accept that the public demand mitigation of climate change, and that this will perforce alter some of the ways that big money makes money. Glasgow 21 was rather more sinister than blah blah blah – it was the formal endorsement of the view that public endeavour is not the solution to climate change, rather the answer lies in “trillions of dollars” of private investment from banks and private equity which, Johnson announced, is all ready to go.

Johnson told us that governments can mobilise billions, while the private sector can mobilise trillions, as though that money was not created by government in the first instance. The Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero provides an answer to the question “What does a representative sample of evil people responsible for despoiling the planet look like?” We receive assurances like this:

Already, a fundamental shift in capital is accelerating as the world’s largest asset owners and managers, controlling over USD$30 trillion, join the UN-backed Race to Zero campaign.

No “respectable” media or body is going to question the taxpayer subsidies, tax breaks and above all taxpayer guaranteed returns the big financial sharks are going to get – because it is all to combat climate change. This is an even bigger spree in the offing for the fatcats than the banker bailouts that led to the decade of austerity. In order to ensure the private sector money rolls in, you and I will be meeting R & D costs and then picking up any losses: the wealthy will be hoovering up the profits.

They also need to keep consumers consuming. There is no government interest in distributed power generation solutions.

Consider this. If you insulated every home in the country, and put solar panels on every roof, non-local energy usage would be greatly reduced and people’s energy bills would fall. But insulating homes, especially older ones, is much more labour intensive than it is capital intensive. It would create hundreds of thousands of jobs. But material costs are comparatively small, and then after insulation consumers will not be paying big energy bills. This is not in the least a fatcat friendly policy.

But what if you leave homes pumping heat into the atmosphere, forget local generation and instead build a new network of nuclear power stations? There is nothing more conducive to the concentration of economic and social power than the nuclear industry, with its inextricable links to the security state. Electricity can still be sold to the helots, whose self-sufficiency and freedom will in no way be enhanced.

Nobody should be surprised the government is showing much more interest in nuclear power than in home insulation or domestic solar panels.

Similarly expect to see much government support given to “blue hydrogen”, which liberates more CO2 from natural gas than does burning the gas in a power station. It employs fossil fuel and the promises to continue the economic centralisation of the current energy market, so is very attractive to the ruling classes. Green hydrogen, however, requires wind turbines (or potentially solar power in Africa) and water, and is therefore potentially susceptible to production by large communities rather than by oil giants.

Nuclear power, blue hydrogen – expect to have these and other high centralisation, high energy schemes foisted on us now as “solutions.” They are in fact solutions, in this sense. In Glasgow the people were shut out while the global super-wealthy asked themselves this vital question:

“The planet is heading for environmental destruction: how do we make money out of that?”

They believe they have found some of the answers.

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Keeping Freedom Alive

I want to make one or two points for you to ponder while I am in jail. This is the last post until about Christmas; we are not legally able to post anything while I am imprisoned. But the Justice for Craig Murray Campaign website is now up and running and will start to have more content shortly. Fora and comments here are planned to stay open.

I hope that one possible good effect of my imprisonment might be to coalesce opposition to the imminent abolition of jury trials in sexual assault cases by the Scottish Government, a plan for which Lady Dorrian – who wears far too many hats in all this – is front and centre. We will then have a situation where, as established by my imprisonment, no information at all on the defence case may be published in case it contributes to “jigsaw identification”, and where conviction will rest purely on the view of the judge.

That is plainly not “open justice”, it is not justice at all. And it is even worse than that, because the openly stated aim of abolishing juries is to increase conviction rates. So people will have their lives decided not by a jury of their peers, but by a judge who is acting under specific instruction to increase conviction rates.

It is often noted that conviction rates in rape trials are too low, and that is true. But have you ever heard this side of the argument? In Uzbekistan under the Karimov dictatorship, when I served there, conviction rates in rape trials were 100%. In fact very high conviction rates are a standard feature of all highly authoritarian regimes worldwide, because if the state prosecutes you then the state gets what it wants. The wishes of the state in such systems vastly outweigh the liberty of the individual.

My point is simply this. You cannot judge the validity of a system simply by high conviction rates. What we want is a system where the innocent are innocent and the guilty found guilty; not where an arbitrary conviction target is met.

The answer to the low conviction rates in sexual assault trials is not simple. Really serious increases in resources for timely collection of evidence, for police training and specialist units, for medical services, for victim support, all have a part to play. But that needs a lot of money and thought. Just abolishing juries and telling judges you want them to convict is of course free, or even a saving.

The right to have the facts judged in serious crime allegations by a jury of our peers is a glory of our civilisation. It is the product of millennia, not lightly to be thrown away and replaced by a huge increase in arbitrary state power. That movement is of course fueled by current fashionable political dogma which is that the victim must always be believed. That claim has morphed from an initial meaning that police and first responders must take accusations seriously, to a dogma that accusation is proof and it is wrong to even question the evidence, which is of course to deny the very possibility of false accusation.

That is precisely the position which Nicola Sturgeon has taken over the Alex Salmond trial; to be accused is to be guilty, irrespective of the defence evidence. That people are oblivious to the dangers of the dogma that there should be no defence against sexual assault allegations, is to me deeply worrying. Sexual allegation is the most common method that states have used to attack dissidents for centuries, worldwide and again especially in authoritarian regimes. Closer to home, think of history stretching from Roger Casement to Assange and Salmond.

Why would we remove the only barrier – a jury of ordinary citizens – that can stop abuse of state power?

I am worried that this abolition of juries will have been enacted by the Scottish Parliament, even before I am out of jail. I am worried Labour and the Lib Dems will support it out of fashionable political correctness. I am worried an important liberty will disappear.

I want to touch on one other aspect of liberty in my own imprisonment that appears not understood, or perhaps simply neglected, because somehow the very notion of liberty is slipping from our political culture. One point that features plainly in the troll talking points to be used against me, recurring continually on social media, is that I was ordered to take down material from my blog and refused.

There is an extremely important point here. I have always instantly complied with any order of a court to remove material. What I have not done is comply with instructions from the Crown or Procurator Fiscal to remove material. Because it is over 330 years since the Crown had the right of censorship in Scotland without the intervention of a judge.

It sickens me that so many Scottish Government backed trolls are tweeting out that I should have obeyed the instructions of the Crown. That Scotland has a governing party which actively supports the right of the Crown to exercise unrestrained censorship is extremely worrying, and I think a sign both of the lack of respect in modern political culture for liberties which were won by people being tortured to death, and of the sheer intellectual paucity of the current governing class.

But then we now learn that Scotland has a government which was prepared not only to be complicit in exempting the Crown from climate change legislation, but also complicit in hushing up the secret arrangement, so I am not surprised.

What is even more terrifying in my case is that the Court explicitly states that I should have followed the directions of the Crown Office in what I did and did not publish, and my failure to not publish as the Crown ordered is an aggravating factor in my sentencing.

If the Crown thinks something I write is in contempt and I think it is not, the Crown and I should stand as equals in court and argue our cases. There should be no presumption I ought to have obeyed the Crown in the first place. That Scottish “justice” has lost sight of this is disastrous, though perhaps as much from stupidity as malice.

My next thought on my trial is to emphasise again the dreadful doctrine Lady Dorrian has now enshrined in law, that bloggers should be held to a different (by implication higher) standard in law than the mainstream media (the judgement uses exactly those terms), because the mainstream media is self-regulated.

This doctrine is used to justify jailing me when mainstream media journalists have not been jailed for media contempt for over half a century, and also to explain why I have been prosecuted where the mainstream media, who were provably responsible for far more jigsaw identification, were not prosecuted.

This is dreadful law, and my entire legal team are frankly astonished that the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal on this point. This excellent article by Jonathan Cook explains further the chilling implications.

Those articles which the Court ordered me to take down, have been taken down. But I was not ordered to take down this one, which was found not to be in contempt of court. I was also not ordered to take down my affidavits, which though slightly redacted are still extremely valuable. I swore to the truth of every word and I stick by that. At the time I published these, far less was known about the Salmond affair than is known now, and I believe you will find it well worth reading them again in the light of your current state of wider knowledge – absolutely nothing to do with learning identities, but to do with what really happened on the whole plot to destroy Alex Salmond (something the judgement states I am allowed to say).

Finally I urge you to consider this truly remarkable speech from Kenny MacAskill MP. Scotland’s former Justice Secretary, and consider its quite staggering implications. It tells you everything you want to know about the British Establishment’s capture of the Scottish government, that the mainstream media felt no need to report the main points he was making, which constitute a simply astonishing outline of corrupt abuse of power.

An explanation: this blog is going dark because I cannot by law publish from prison or conduct a business from prison. Access to this blog has always been free and open and subscriptions have always been a voluntary contribution and not a purchase. It is understood that all new and continuing subscriptions from today, until we go live again, are voluntary contributions to the welfare of my family and not in exchange for anything.

I am afraid one off contributions to the defence fund are also still urgently needed. Legal costs so far paid amount to over £200,000 and continue to rise as we head towards the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which has to be via another Scottish Court called the nobile officium. Astonishingly, over 13,000 individuals from over 120 countries have contributed to the legal defence fund. People all over the world value freedom and realise the terrible precedents established by this case must be overturned.

We are equally grateful for all donations and all really do help – donations of £5 or less total over £30,000. But I must mention the special generosity of Roger Waters and Vivienne Westwood, and the anonymous individual who gave one bitcoin. 80% of the fund is reserved for legal fees, but up to 20% may be used to fund campaigning to raise public and political awareness of the human rights issues involved.




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Subscription to this blog has always been voluntary and anyone is free to read and reproduce without subscribing. These subscriptions have become the major source of income to myself and my family, and I am especially grateful to those who have maintained their subscriptions when it has not been really functioning. I shall be immensely happy if you can continue until I am back. The struggle continues after this holiday.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Going Dark

This blog will be going dark for a few months. The Queen kindly paid for my dinners for over twenty years while I was a British diplomat and Ambassador, and now she is going to be paying for my dinners again. That is very kind, I thought she had forgotten me.

The following is a statement from Nadira:

29.07.21
Today is the most heartbreaking day. My husband whose health has been found to not be suitable for prison must hand himself in for detention within hours following the UK Supreme Court’s decision not to hear his appeal.

We were extremely hopeful that the Supreme Court would hear his case and had no doubt that this particular case should have been heard given how important and relevant it is in the context of Freedom of Speech in the UK. Instead, the Supreme Court declined to hear it.

Yet again my heart is deeply saddened to find that the UK, once a country which placed great importance on Human Rights issues, has failed to listen to my husband’s case. Additionally, the Scottish Court outright dismissed Craig’s poor health, having been made aware through the mandatory Social Work report and doctor’s reports that his wellbeing would be at risk if forced to go to jail.

At first I tried to come to terms of him being jailed in the hope he would be granted dignified conditions in jail but I am saddened and shocked to learn he could be placed among criminals, with no ability to bring books or enable him to write, with no entertainment allowed. He is being treated like a criminal. This is not a just punishment, this is a deliberate attempt to break the spirit of anyone brave enough to make use of free speech.

Given a pen and paper what do you do? You write in your own voice speaking the truth. Having been with Craig for two decades he has always spent his time and energy highlighting injustices and standing up for what is right, carefully, considerately and consistently.

I was brought up during Soviet times, and post independence in my own country, Uzbekistan. I have witnessed and personally experienced myself what the price of freedom of speech truly is. Opponents were ‘disappeared’ or it was claimed they had ‘taken their own life’, or been locked away in asylums. I am filled with fear this pattern is now repeating itself in the UK. It is appalling to see Craig is going through the same treatment in the so-called ‘human rights’ respecting country UK.

This is an attack on Truthtellers. His writings are those of a highly qualified Journalist, Human Rights Activist, former Rector of Dundee University and former British Ambassador. To us, his family, this situation is devastating: I am now left with my 5 months old baby, yet to find a good way to explain Craig’s jail sentence to his confused and anxious 12 year old son.

Of any readers concerned with the loss of freedom of speech and equality before the law I ask that you show active and outspoken solidarity with my partner.

A Craig Murray Justice Campaign has been formed which I hope you can support. Find them on twitter @cmurrayjustice . Their website will be up shortly and details will be posted on this site.

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I am well aware that the last few weeks I have posted very little, because the constant worry of having a jail sentence hanging imminently over my head, which became very oppressive. For the last several Friday afternoons I was watching the clock until the time came when I was confident no warrant would come and I could have another weekend with my children.

Subscription to this blog has always been voluntary and anyone is free to read and reproduce without subscribing. These subscriptions have become the major source of income to myself and my family, and I am especially grateful to those who have maintained their subscriptions when it has not been really functioning. I shall be immensely happy if you can continue until I am back. The struggle continues after this holiday.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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On Being A Bit Wrong

I was down in London last week for discussions around my appeal to the Supreme Court, and staying in a hotel close to Leicester Square, I wandered along to see the fans during their game with Ukraine and its very noisy aftermath. I was hoping to write a piece about disgusting uncouth yobs of racist English nationalists and their stupid and perhaps violent excesses.

With the exception of the most hardline of unionists and the politically correct automatons of the “new” SNP, it is ingrained in most Scots to support two teams: Scotland, and whoever is playing England. This is generally expressed lightly, but the centuries of oppression and cultural and economic dominance that led to these attitudes are very real. I have been amusing myself greatly on twitter throughout the tournament by supporting the Czech Republic, Germany, Ukraine, any opponent of England, I confess largely because it creases me up to see unionists so easily triggered and unable to cope with teasing.

I know, I should get out more.

Well, I have to say I was wrong. I found it impossible to dislike the crowds of England supporters. They were joyous, and there was no sign I could find around Leicester or Trafalgar Squares of the kind of racist Brexit backers who had booed the England team for taking the knee. Indeed, the most striking thing about the crowd was its extreme multiculturalism, the most joyous and unified representation of most of the ethnic groupings on this earth, all with their arms around each other and sharing beer, wine, tequila, a variety of smokable substances, and anything else to hand.

There was also a far greater gender mix than I expected, and the women were by no means passive or in girlfriend mode. In fact some of the more aggressively uninhibited groups of celebrating young women were distinctly intimidating to an old fogey like me and had me scuttling to cover (they meant no harm but might have hugged me to death).

Yes, I know London is not Grimsby or the ex-red wall constituencies, I know English nationalism is a real problem and will split up the UK (about which I am intensely happy). But I was wrong to dismiss the Gareth Southgate phenomenon of an essentially decent Englishness and its reach. My loyalties for Euro 2020 (sic) now lie with the nation of my Italian grandmother. But I feel somewhat less revolted by the continuing success of the English team.

I should make my confession; I liked the English fans I was around that night.

————–

I should be very grateful if you read this excellent article by Alexander Mercouris on my appeal to the Supreme Court. Alexander is a lawyer and it is an explanation of the detail, but it absolutely captures everything I have been lying awake at nights and thinking about the case.

I was chatting to Vivienne Westwood at a rally for Julian Assange and she is very taken with the climate crisis. We are heading for the edge of an abyss, and a few people in power are considering how to slow down a bit, while almost nobody is suggesting we turn round. Vivienne reminded me of her website Climate Revolution, which is very stimulating and worth checking for updates.

Vivienne often chooses to express her thought through her art and allegorical representation, and also writes cogently and pithily. The breadth and depth of her knowledge and quality of her thinking are impressive. For those not with a natural artistic bent, it is worth taking the time to understand. For example, she chose to celebrate Julian’s fiftieth birthday not by eating birthday cake but by smearing it on herself. It is a great piece of agitprop, and invites you to work out why.

Finally, here is a lovely picture of John Pilger, who was on great form, and me showing off my bald spot.

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Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

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FBI Fabrication Against Assange Falls Apart

On the final day of the Assange extradition hearing, magistrate Vanessa Baraitser refused to accept an affidavit from Assange’s solicitor Gareth Peirce, on the grounds it was out of time. The affidavit explained that the defence had been unable to respond to the new accusations in the United States government’s second superseding indictment, because these wholly new matters had been sprung on them just six weeks before the hearing resumed on 8 September 2020.

The defence had not only to gather evidence from Iceland, but had virtually no access to Assange to take his evidence and instructions, as he was effectively in solitary confinement in Belmarsh. The defence had requested an adjournment to give them time to address the new accusations, but this adjournment had been refused by Baraitser.

She now refused to accept Gareth Peirce’s affidavit setting out these facts.

What had happened was this. The hearings on the Assange extradition in January 2020 did not seem to be going well for the US government. The arguments that political extradition is specifically banned by the UK/US extradition treaty, and that the publisher was not responsible for Chelsea Manning’s whistleblowing on war crimes, appeared to be strong. The US Justice Department had decided that it therefore needed a new tack and to discover some “crimes” by Assange that seemed less noble than the Manning revelations.

To achieve this, the FBI turned to an informant in Iceland, Sigi Thordarson, who was willing to testify that Assange had been involved with him in, inter alia, hacking private banking information and tracking Icelandic police vehicles. This was of course much easier to portray as crime, as opposed to journalism, so the second superseding indictment was produced based on Thordarson’s story, which was elaborated with Thordarson by an FBI team.

The difficulty was that Thordarson was hardly a reliable witness. He had already been convicted in Iceland for stealing approximately $50,000 from Wikileaks and with impersonating Julian Assange online, not to mention the inconvenient fact he is a registered sex offender for online activities with under-age boys. The FBI team was in fact expelled from Iceland by the Icelandic government, who viewed what the FBI was doing with Thordarson as wholly illegitimate.

Notwithstanding all of that, in June 2020 we had the extraordinary position of the US government, 18 months since the start of extradition proceedings and six months after opening arguments had been heard by the court, being permitted completely to change the charges and alleged crimes which were the grounds for extradition, in the second superseding indictment.

On 8 September 2020 I was in court to report Mark Summers QC addressing the question of these new superseding charges:

The court resumed with a new defence application, led by Mark Summers QC, about the new charges from the US governments new superseding indictment. Summers took the court back over the history of this extradition hearing. The first indictment had been drawn up in March of 2018. In January 2019 a provisional request for extradition had been made, which had been implemented in April of 2019 on Assange’s removal from the Embassy. In June 2019 this was replaced by the full request with a new, second indictment which had been the basis of these proceedings before today. A whole series of hearings had taken place on the basis of that second indictment.

The new superseding indictment dated from 20 June 2020. In February and May 2020 the US government had allowed hearings to go ahead on the basis of the second indictment, giving no warning, even though they must by that stage have known the new superseding indictment was coming. They had given neither explanation nor apology for this.

The defence had not been properly informed of the superseding indictment, and indeed had learnt of its existence only through a US government press release on 20 June. It had not finally been officially served in these proceedings until 29 July, just six weeks ago. At first, it had not been clear how the superseding indictment would affect the charges, as the US government was briefing it made no difference but just gave additional detail. But on 21 August 2020, not before, it finally became clear in new US government submissions that the charges themselves had been changed.

There were now new charges that were standalone and did not depend on the earlier allegations. Even if the 18 Manning related charges were rejected, these new allegations could still form grounds for extradition. These new allegations included encouraging the stealing of data from a bank and from the government of Iceland, passing information on tracking police vehicles, and hacking the computers both of individuals and of a security company.

“How much of this newly alleged material is criminal is anybody’s guess”, stated Summers, going on to explain that it was not at all clear that an Australian giving advice from outwith Iceland to someone in Iceland on how to crack a code, was actually criminal if it occurred in the UK. This was even without considering the test of dual criminality in the US also, which had to be passed before the conduct was subject to extradition.

It was unthinkable that allegations of this magnitude would be the subject of a Part 2 extradition hearing within six weeks if they were submitted as a new case. Plainly that did not give the defence time to prepare, or to line up witnesses to these new charges. Among the issues relating to these new charges the defence would wish to address, were that some were not criminal, some were out of time limitation, some had already been charged in other fora (including Southwark Crown Court and courts in the USA).

There were also important questions to be asked about the origins of some of these charges and the dubious nature of the witnesses. In particular the witness identified as “teenager” was the same person identified as “Iceland 1” in the previous indictment. That indictment had contained a “health warning” over this witness given by the US Department of Justice. This new indictment removed that warning. But the fact was, this witness is Sigurdur Thordarson, who had been convicted in Iceland in relation to these events of fraud, theft, stealing Wikileaks money and material and impersonating Julian Assange.

The indictment did not state that the FBI had been “kicked out of Iceland for trying to use Thordarson to frame Assange”, stated Summers baldly.

Summers said all these matters should be ventilated in these hearings if the new charges were to be heard, but the defence simply did not have time to prepare its answers or its witnesses in the brief six weeks it had since receiving them, even setting aside the extreme problems of contact with Assange in the conditions in which he was being held in Belmarsh prison.

The defence would plainly need time to prepare answers to these new charges, but it would plainly be unfair to keep Assange in jail for the months that would take. The defence therefore suggested that these new charges should be excised from the conduct to be considered by the court, and they should go ahead with the evidence on criminal behaviour confined to what conduct had previously been alleged.

Summers argued it was “entirely unfair” to add what were in law new and separate criminal allegations, at short notice and “entirely without warning and not giving the defence time to respond to it. What is happening here is abnormal, unfair and liable to create real injustice if allowed to continue.”

The arguments submitted by the prosecution now rested on these brand new allegations. For example, the prosecution now countered the arguments on the rights of whistleblowers and the necessity of revealing war crimes by stating that there can have been no such necessity to hack into a bank in Iceland.

Summers concluded that the “case should be confined to that conduct which the American government had seen fit to allege in the eighteen months of the case” before their second new indictment.

Baraitser refused to rule out the new charges, and then did rule out the immediate defence request for an adjournment to give them time to respond to the new charges. At the end of the hearings she refused to accept the Peirce affidavit explaining why the defence was unable to respond. The court had by then spent nearly a month listening to witnesses refuting the first superseding indictment, as prepared by the defence, but nothing addressing the second superseding indictment.

Summers was absolutely furious when Baraitser refused to accept Peirce’s affidavit on the subject, to the extent he was still explosive in the street outside after the hearings had concluded.

While Baraitser’s eventual decision barred extradition on the grounds of Assange’s health and US inhumane prison conditions, the second superseding indictment and Thordarson’s accusations were accepted as a valid basis for extradition.

Thordarson has now told Icelandic magazine Stundin that his allegations against Assange contained in the indictment are untrue, and that Assange had not solicited the hacking of bank or police details. This is hardly a shock, though Thordarson’s motives for coming clean now are obscure; he is plainly a deeply troubled and often malicious individual.
Thordarson was always the most unreliable of witnesses, and I find it impossible to believe that the FBI cooperation with him was ever any more than deliberate fabrication of evidence by the FBI.

Edward Snowden has tweeted that Thordarson recanting will end the case against Julian Assange. Most certainly it should end it, but I fear it will not.

Many things should have ended the case against Assange. The First Amendment, the ban on political extradition in the US/UK Extradition Treaty, the CIA spying on the preparations of Assange’s defence counsel, all of these should have stopped the case dead in its tracks.

It is now five months since extradition was refused, no US government appeal against that decision has yet been accepted by the High Court, and yet Julian remains confined to the UK’s highest security prison. The revelation that Thordarson’s allegations are fabricated – which everyone knew already, Baraitser just pretended she didn’t – is just one more illegality that the Establishment will shimmy over in its continued persecution of Assange.

Assange democratised information and gave real power to the people for a while, worldwide. He revealed US war crimes. For that his life is destroyed. Neither law nor truth have anything to do with it.

———————————————

 
 
Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Warmongering British Actions in the Black Sea

The pre-positioning of the BBC correspondent on HMS Defender shatters the pretence that the BBC is something different to a state propaganda broadcaster. It also makes plain that this propaganda exercise to provoke the Russian military was calculated and deliberate. Indeed that was confirmed by that BBC correspondent’s TV news report last night when he broadcast that the Defender’s route “had been approved at the very highest levels of the British government.”

The Prime Minister does not normally look at the precise positions of British ships. This was a deliberate act of dangerous belligerence.

The presence of a BBC correspondent is more than a political point. In fact it has important legal consequences. One thing that is plain is that the Defender cannot possible claim it was engaged in “innocent passage” through territorial waters, between Odessa and Georgia. Let me for now leave aside the fact that there is absolutely no necessity to pass within 12 miles of Cape Fiolent on such passage, and the designated sea lane (originally designated by Ukraine) stays just out of the territorial sea. Look at the definition of innocent passage in Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea:

Very plainly this was not innocent passage. It was certainly 2 (d) an act of propaganda, and equally certainly 2 (c), an exercise in collecting information on military defences. I would argue it is also 2 (a), a threat of force.

So far as I can establish, the British are not claiming they were engaged in innocent passage, which is plainly nonsense, but that they were entering territorial waters off Crimea at the invitation of the government of Ukraine, and that they regard Crimea as the territory of Ukraine and Crimean territorial waters as Ukrainian territorial waters.

I want to impress on you how mad this is. The whole point of “territorial sea” is that, legally, it is an integral part of the state and that the state’s full domestic law applies within the territorial sea. That is not the case with the much larger 200 mile exclusive economic zone or sometimes even larger continental shelf, where the coastal state’s legal jurisdiction only applies to specific marine or mineral resources rights.

Let me put it this way. If somebody is murdered on a ship within twelve nautical miles of the coast, the coastal state has jurisdiction and its law applies. If somebody is murdered on a ship more than twelve miles off the coast, the jurisdiction and law of the flag state of the ship applies, not the law of any coastal state in whose exclusive economic zone the ship is.

In international law, the twelve mile territorial sea is as much part of the state as its land. So to sail a warship into Crimean territorial seas is exactly the same act as to land a regiment of paratroops in the Crimea and declare you are doing so at the invitation of the Government of Ukraine.

There is no dispute that Russia is in de facto control of the Crimea, irrespective of British support for the government of Ukraine’s claim to the region. It is also true that Russian annexation of the Crimea was not carried out in an accordance with international law. However, it is not, in practice, likely to be reversed and the situation needs to be resolved by treaty or by the International Court of Justice. In the interim, the UK government legal position can only be that Russia is an “occupying power”. It is impossible that the UK government legal position is that Ukraine is in “effective control” of the territory.

We need to see the legal advice provided by FCO legal advisers. It is simply not the practice in international law to ignore the existence of an occupying power which is a recognised state, and act with armed forces on the authority of a government not in effective control. The difference in British attitude towards Russia as an occupying power and towards Israel is tellingly different.

The legality of the British action is, at very best, moot. In realpolitik, it is an act of brinkmanship with a nuclear power and further effort to ramp up the new Cold War with Russia, to the benefit of the military, security services and armaments companies and the disbenefit of those who need more socially useful government spending. It is further an act of jingoist populism for the neo-liberal elite to distract the masses, as the billionaires’ incredible wealth continues to boom.

NATO will shortly commence a naval exercise in the Black Sea. As not all the member states of NATO are quite as unhinged as Johnson, it is to be hoped it will refrain from this kind of extra layer of provocation. There is a large part of me that says they cannot possibly be mad enough to attempt to intervene in Ukraine with military force, or at least its threat. But then I look at Johnson and Biden, and worry. This can all go horribly wrong.

———————————————

 
 
Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Black Ops in the Black Sea

Sometimes it is worth stating the obvious. The United Kingdom does not have a coast in the Black Sea. British warships are not infesting the Black Sea out of a peaceful intent, and there is no cause for them to be entering disputed waters close to anybody’s coast. This is not a question of freedom of navigation under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea. There is nowhere that a British warship can be heading from the UK under the right of innocent passage that would require it to pass through coastal waters by Crimea. The Black Sea is famously a cul-de-sac.

There is certainly a right to pass to the Ukrainian port of Odessa – but that in now way requires passing close to Crimea. This is therefore not “innocent passage”. There is a right of passage through the Kerch strait, which Russia has to date respected. Russia has not just a right but a duty to enforce sea lanes for safe navigation through the strait, exactly as the UK does off Dover.

I expect we will now be in for a mad frenzy of Russophobia, yet again. I shall comment further once I have more details of why and exactly where Russia was firing warning shots. But just remember this, it was not Russian warships near the British coast, it was British warships in an area where they had no business other than ludicrous, British nationalist, sabre-rattling.

The UK needs to lose its imperial delusions. Sending gunboats to the Crimea is as mad as – well, sailing an aircraft carrier expressly to threaten the Chinese. There are those who see this activity as evidence of the UK’s continued great power status. I see it as evidence of lunacy.

———————————————

 
 
Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Assange Is Still in Jail

Julian Assange remains in a maximum security jail, despite never being sentenced for anything but a long ago served spell for bail-jumping, and despite the US Government’s request for extradition having been refused.

It is approaching six months since I was in court to hear the decision rejecting Julian’s extradition, and it was in the same week that Baraitser ordered Julian be kept in jail pending a US appeal. Since then the US has submitted its appeal, which is somewhat intemperate in its efforts to discredit a number of highly distinguished expert witnesses at the hearing. The defence has submitted its response, including notice of points, where Baraitser found for the US, that the defence intend to counter-appeal.

Then for over three months – nothing. The High Court has not only not set a date for the US appeal, it has not even indicated if the US appeal meets the bar to be heard – there is some thought that the appeal lacks any arguable points of law and may be simply rejected. But the seemingly leisurely approach of the High Court to looking at the matter is entirely inappropriate given that, in the meantime, an innocent man is suffering the most extreme form of incarceration available in the UK.

Assange’s status is that his extradition has been rejected. He ought not to be in jail at all, let alone in such harsh conditions.

By contrast, I am sitting in my study despite being sentenced to eight months in jail. I am at liberty while the Supreme Court decides whether to hear my appeal. My lawyers believe, from their contact with the court administrators, that it is entirely possible that the Supreme Court will decide on whether to take my appeal, within the four week suspension of my jail sentence granted by Lady Dorrian. This is because otherwise I might be imprisoned.

Why can the Supreme Court potentially decide whether to hear my appeal so quickly due to the threat of imprisonment, when the High Court is taking six times or more as long to decide whether to hear the US appeal, when an innocent man is already imprisoned? It makes no sense.

It is not due to complexity: while of course Julian’s case is more important, any points of law at issue in the US appeal are notably less complex than in my own appeal. To me, the only possible explanation is the determination of the state to keep Julian imprisoned at all costs.

It is now plain that Biden intends to press forward with the charging of Julian, a publisher and journalist, under the Espionage Act. This despite the opposition, however belated, of every major news organisation and every major civil liberties oriented NGO. Biden’s recent European trip was choreographed to establish his full credentials as a Cold War warrior and to ensure a western orthodoxy of hostility towards China. Biden is proving, as predicted, a perfect representative of the security and military state.

Having seen off the $15 minimum wage and proposals for meaningful “New Deal” expenditure, Biden can get down to the serious neo-liberal work of improving the fortunes of the ultra-wealthy.

In October 2020, I published a post specifically about the massive suppression on the internet of information about the corrupt dealings of Joe and Hunter Biden, particularly in Ukraine. On 10 February 2021 I published an article about the sacking of Nathan Robinson from the Guardian, which included his statement that the Guardian had spiked his column about Hunter Biden’s corruption.

Russell Brand caused a stir last week when he spoke about the suppression of information about Biden corruption, along precisely the lines of my article last October. He was of course immediately “othered”, as has been Glenn Greenwald.

There is a fascinating phenomenon in western democracies of fake liberal left political parties acting as enablers of the global billionaire elite. Biden, Starmer, Sturgeon, Macron, Trudeau, Sanchez, all pretend to be some kind of alternative to rampant neo-liberalism while acting as its most effective enablers. All are very willing advocates of not just neo-liberalism but the military and security complex and the NATO cold war stance, plus companions in the steady ratcheting down on civil liberties. None has the slightest intention of closing the gap between ordinary people and the super-wealthy.

The democracy of false choice appears to be a decent working title for the current state of western society.

———————————————

 
 
Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

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The Mind of Lady Dorrian

By Kirsten MacDonald
Republished from Consortium News

This paragraph is from Lady Dorrian’s original judgement on Craig Murray. It oozes malice and prejudice in its very plain twist of both logic and fact. She seeks to make something obviously to Murray’s credit work to his detriment.

[68] A notable feature of the affidavits is the repeated focus by the respondent on the absence of a court order prior to 10 March 2020 as meaning that had he wished to identify the complainers he could have done so prior to that date, “knowing there was no general law or court order in place preventing me simply from publishing”. This however “would not have been responsible journalism”. That it would have been a clear contravention of the IPSO Editor’s Code of Practice and of the local convention are not matters which appear to have engaged him, although it is clear from para 40 of his main affidavit that he was aware of the convention.

In his affidavits Murray had stated that he could have simply published the names at any time before 10 March 2020 and that would have been legal. It was therefore, Murray argued, ridiculous to argue he was instead engaged in a sneak attempt to out the names by code.

Dorrian judges that Murray should be given no credit for not publishing the names, because he did so in the name of “responsible journalism” and not in the name of the IPSO Editor’s Code or of a “local convention”. The extraordinary thing here is that Murray was following both the code and convention. He just did not name them.

It is even weirder than that. He did in fact name the Editor’s Code, but did not do so in the same paragraph where he explained his determination to not out the accusers.

Lady Dorrian’s logic here is precisely the same as saying “You may have been under the 30mph speed limit, but you did not state specifically you were under the 30mph speed limit according to the Highway Code, so your good behaviour does not count.” Dorrian’s position is self-evidently ludicrous.

Dorrian’s twisting does not stop there. As a blogger, Murray had no obligation to follow the Editor’s Code. His point was he could have published the names prior to 10 March with no legal penalty, and the fact he did not shows that he had no wish to. That remains true – there would have been no penalties for Murray in breaking either the code or the local convention.

Dorrian dismissed this argument on grounds which are spurious in logic.

In her Opinion rejecting Murray’s application to appeal to the Supreme Court, Dorrian returns to this same point. She makes a distinction between bloggers and journalists, and argues that bloggers and new media should get harder sentences for contempt than legacy media journalists, because legacy media journalists are self-regulated.

[4] The applicant describes himself as a “journalist in new media”. Whatever that may
involve, it is relevant to distinguish his position from that of the mainstream press, which is
regulated, and subject to codes of practice and ethics in a way in which those writing as the
applicant does are not. To the extent that the submissions for the applicant make
comparisons with other press contempts, and the role of mainstream journalists, this is a
factor which should be recognised.

Dorrian needed to answer two points raised by the defence.

The first was why Murray is prosecuted when objective opinion poll evidence shows the “respectable” media – especially the BBC and the Scotsman newspaper – were responsible for far more jigsaw ID than Murray.

The second was why Murray has been jailed for contempt when no legacy media journalist has been jailed for contempt for at least forty years. There have been some extremely serious findings of contempt in those four decades, including full and open revealing of protected identities, with both names and photos. They have been punished by fines and not imprisonment.

It was simply impossible for Dorrian to argue that Murray is not being treated more harshly than other relevant cases. So she argues that bloggers ought to be treated more harshly. Murray’s legal team are pinning their hopes that this will catch the eye of the Supreme Court.

Disdain for new media in general and for Murray in particular permeates everything written by Dorrian on the case. The evidential basis on which Murray was convicted is entirely obscure. Murray used the same code letters as all other journalists to report the accusers in the trial. He repeated again and again in his affidavits his intention to keep identities secret. He gives details of how he went about this.

Murray states, as discussed above, he did not reveal the identities when he legally could.

Murray states he conducted google searches to make sure details he published did not reveal identities.

Murray states that he omitted important details – like who was present at the 29 February 2019 meeting between Geoff Aberdein and Nicola Sturgeon – to guard against jigsaw identification, even when the entire legacy media published those details.

Both the first and last of those points are true as plain fact. That Murray also conducted google searches was not contested by the Crown.

Here is the most important point of all.

No evidence of any kind was produced in court to contradict Murray’s sworn testimony that he tried to conceal identities. Yet Lady Dorrian decided to treat Murray’s affidavit as lies despite hearing no evidence to contradict it, and despite no claim from the Crown that it was lies. She did so entirely on the basis that her own reading of Murray’s articles revealed to her a deliberate “campaign” to reveal the names by “clues”.

The astonishing thing is this. Murray’s articles on the case had totaled hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of page views before Lady Dorrian read them. Yet nobody before Lady Dorrian had ever alleged – including not on any social media platform – that Murray was conducting a campaign to out witnesses.

Like all Murray’s journalism, there was a very great deal of comment from those hostile to him. Including on Facebook, Twitter and his blog. That includes paid trolling by both Sturgeon related SNP staff and by British Government influence programmes. But not even any of these had ever claimed to have discerned or alleged a campaign by Murray to reveal identities. Nor had the prosecution ever alleged it. The notion arose entirely in the mind of Lady Dorrian.

Nothing that would meet the bar of evidence was produced to the court that anybody was in fact identified from Murray’s writing.

Murray further testified, with evidence, that he believed it was for the courts to decide on anonymity.

After the acquittal Murray had instructed, at his own expense, Craig Sandison QC to draft an application to court to lift the anonymity of specific accusers shown in court to give false testimony.

The key point being Murray was going the legal route to this, had paid a QC and was prepared to accept a court decision on it. That is not consistent with a secret campaign to reveal identities.

There is one further pertinent point.

Lady Dorrian’s evident dislike of the modern world of new media makes her oblivious to who Craig Murray is. As I know from editing his collected works, Murray has been at the forefront of internet freedom campaigns since 2005. Murray has himself released secret classified documents on the net, mirrored thousands of times worldwide. Murray has been involved in notable Streisand effect campaigns with subjects including oligarch Alisher Usmanov and mercenary commander Tim Spicer.

Murray is a friend of Wikileaks, and with many from hacker communities, where he is well-regarded.

There is a plain truth that should be stated. Had Murray wished to reveal the names, he had the capacity and contacts to have them mirrored all over the internet in places where Scottish jurisdiction does not run. Murray has the knowledge, resource and access to initiate this in ways that could never be traced back to him. Anyone with a basic understanding of web activism can see that Murray has never wanted these names released. Or they would have been.

In my last report I recounted that an experienced journalist told me that they had never seen a judge so “emotionally invested”, as Dorrian against Craig Murray.

We now know that one reason Murray was kept waiting an agonising ten weeks for the verdict after the main hearing was that Dorrian was busy writing a report for the Scottish government. This tackles sexual assault trials and how to increase conviction rates.

Dorrian’s recommendations in that report include the abolition of juries in sexual assault trials, and the end of the right of the defendant’s lawyers to cross-examine the accuser in court proceedings.

Dorrian was clearly parti pris in all of this. In the United States and other jurisdictions she would have had to recuse herself.

Dorrian’s extraordinary decision on Murray’s guilt lacks a basis in evidence. But that is not a point that can be contested at the Supreme Court.

The original trial judge remains the sole judge of fact, which is a potentially disastrous situation for Murray. The UK Supreme Court can only intervene on points of law where the judgement is inconsistent with the European Convention on Human Rights. Murray has only a narrow path to freedom.

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There is of course a major difference in the finances of bloggers and mainstream media and it is an unfortunate truth that an appeal to the Supreme Court will cost hundreds of thousands of pounds. Details of how to contribute to Craig Murray’s Defence Fund are here:




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The Decline of Western Power

Boris Johnson sees himself as the heritor of a world bestriding Imperial mantle, but in truth he cannot bestride the Irish Sea. The overshadowing of the G7 summit by his peculiar concern that Irish sausages should not be eaten by those in Northern Ireland who do not believe in evolution, was a fascinating examplar of British impotence as he failed to persuade anybody else to support him. It looks like Danish bacon for the shops of Belfast and Derry will have to be imported through Dun Laoghaire and not through Larne. Ho hum.

The really interesting thing about the G7 summit is that it wasn’t interesting. Nobody expected it to change the world, and it won’t. John Pilger pointed out the key fact. Twenty years ago the G7 constituted two thirds of the world economy. Now they constitute one third. They don’t even represent most of the world’s billionaires any longer, though those billionaires they do represent – and indeed some of the billionaires they don’t represent – were naturally pulling the strings of these rather sluggish puppets.

It used to be that any important sporting event in any developing country would feature hoardings for western multinationals, such as Pepsi Cola and Nestle baby milk. Nowadays I am watching the Euros football pitches surrounded by electronic hoardings in Chinese. The thing about power is this; it shifts with time.

None of the commitments made on covid or climate change constituted any new money, any real transfer of wealth or technology. It was a non-event. Nobody will ever look back at anything beyond the personal as having started last weekend in Cornwall.

From there, pretty well the same people moved on to pretend to bestride the world militarily at NATO, where the first job was to pretend they had not lost the long Afghan war they have just, err, lost.

At NATO, they stuck out their tongues at China, which has upset them a lot by becoming the world’s most powerful nation. China was accused of an aggressive military posture, which is amusing in its utter lack of truth. Other than some construction of tiny artificial islands (which China is in fact wrong to claim can generate maritime claims according to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea), it is very difficult to understand on what this NATO accusation of aggression is based.

If China really is trying to outdo many centuries of western Imperial conquest – stretching up to the recent destructions of Libya and Syria – by building tiny artificial islands, it is a plan of extreme cunning and patience. NATO seem to have discovered their new enemy by reading Ian Fleming.

Let me tell you something that actually is true. I cannot think of any instance in world history of any power enjoying the level of economic dominance currently enjoyed by China, and yet showing such restraint and lack of interest in Imperial conquest. It is not China which is sailing aircraft carriers towards Boris Johnson, it is the other way round. In fact the restraint China shows in not carrying out the simple task of sinking Johnson’s silly aircraft carrier, undermines the propaganda of thousands of NATO press officers and social media operatives, including the UK’s very own 77th Brigade and Integrity Initiative.

It is even sillier to attempt to terrify us all with the thought that the Russians are coming. I know it upsets the Putin fans when I say it, but Russia’s share of the world economy has declined just as the G7 share has. As Russia was always, and still is, poorer than the poorest of the G7 nations, the NATO attempt to portray Russia as a great threat is really rather silly. If there is truth in the story of a couple of super military intelligence officers traveling widely but not killing many people, and of cunning Russian computer hackers engaging in cyber warfare while leaving cyrillic fingerprints behind, in a manner strangely identical to the CIA guidance on how to lay Russian false flags as shown in the Wikileaks vault 7 releases, then it is still difficult for me to understand why this would all require trillions of dollars in military hardware to stop it.

Interrupting hacking with Trident missiles seems neither cost effective nor proportionate. But then I am not an ace NATO military strategist.

Follow the money. Of course the NATO show is all about diverting simply incredible amounts of our money and resources into the military industrial complex, which is permanently profitable for politician backhanders; the arms industry remains the only “legitimate” industry more corrupt than banking, which is quite a feat.

I shall sleep safe in my bed at night knowing that the money NATO spends just this year to keep me safe from the Russian and Chinese tanks which are absolutely poised to roll up Princes Street, could have eliminated malaria forever. God bless our glorious leaders.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Hating Peter Tatchell

I would dearly love to say that I am a friend of Peter Tatchell, but I can’t really claim to be more than an acquaintance and perhaps ally. We have shared a platform several times, always say hi to each other at demos and events where we see each other, but have never really had a personal conversation. Peter always appears to me somewhat withdrawn; a mutual friend described him to me as aloof. I think he is shy, which seems a strange thing to say about someone whose life has been, as the new Netflix documentary Hating Peter Tatchell makes plain, a series of spectacular and often individual performance protest events.

In the documentary you see Peter get brutally beaten by nationalist extremists in Russia, and by Mugabe henchmen in London. You see some remarkably un-Christian blows hit him as he is removed from the pulpit at Canterbury cathedral. You learn his mum was a religious bigot and he was very brutally beaten, as attested by his mother and sister, by an extremely violent stepfather, who looks in photos a caricature thug. There is a fragility and vulnerability about Peter that makes you want to protect him; but he still ventures into danger.

The documentary features almost exclusively Peter’s campaigning for gay rights, which is a weakness as his canvas is much broader than that. There are some interesting ironies along the way which are missed. It refrains from pointing out that the victor and beneficiary of the appalling homophobic campaign against Peter in the Bermondsey by-election was Simon Hughes, himself then firmly in the closet. Extracts from a Glasgow TV show, in which Tatchell is heavily criticised by young people for “outing” gays, very briefly show the show’s host John Nicholson – who I am pretty sure was himself in the closet at the time.

It is very good to be reminded by this documentary that widespread and open homophobia was a major force in British society right through the 1980’s. Peter Tatchell deserves a place in history as one of the leaders in changing that, and I am proud to know him. I strongly commend the documentary to you. However its weakness lies in trying to squeeze Peter through the Overton window. By focusing on gay rights alone, it can portray Peter as the victor, who is now in line with accepted attitudes.

The documentary explicitly states he became a “national treasure” when he took on Mugabe. The big set-piece is his taking on Putin’s Russia by traveling to the World Cup and demonstrating in Red Square against the killing and torture of gays in Chechnya. Any pro-gay demonstration in Russia takes enormous courage, but the police dealing with him on this occasion were polite and non-violent and he was released the next day. Peter is however quite right in outlining discrimination against gays in Russia and Putin’s tolerance or even encouragement of it. The accumulation of Overton-signaling soft targets towards the end of the documentary is completed by a brief clip of him interrupting Jeremy Corbyn to protest against human rights violations by Assad.

I don’t exactly blame the documentary makers, who had to sell the film and get at least some of their money back, but this mainstream media friendly Tatchell is just one corner of the picture. He does not just take on designated western enemies such as Putin, Mugabe and Assad.

Peter has been an extremely dedicated supporter of Julian Assange, turning up repeatedly for years outside the Ecuador Embassy and at subsequent demos, often alone and unannounced, and without pushing himself forward to speak (I have found a reluctance to integrate Peter into the Assange defence campaign, which puzzles me).

The documentary shows him trying to arrest Mugabe but there is no mention of his still more spectacular ambush of Blair’s motorcade and attempt to arrest the war criminal. His steadfast and active support for Palestine, his opposition to Trident and to the Iraq and Afghan wars, all this is shown only in the end credits by the banners he is holding. His long-running campaign against Saudi Arabian human rights violations, and those of other Gulf states, is ignored in favour of Western “enemies”.

This is my favourite Tatchell placard:

Peter Tatchell is, to me, a great hero and always will be. I probably do not agree with him on every single issue, but no sentient human being should ever agree with any other on absolutely everything – if you do, one of you is not actually thinking.

A final thought. I have repeatedly stated that the Westminster government will not voluntarily give up Scotland, and only agreed to the 2014 referendum because they thought it impossible to lose. They got a huge shock and will not go that route again. Winning Scottish Independence is almost certainly going to involve a measure of civil disobedience. This documentary is a profound lesson in how civil disobedience can bring about social and political change, and the sacrifices it entails, and I urge you to watch it with that perspective.

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Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

Recurring Donations



 

Paypal address for one-off donations: [email protected]

Alternatively by bank transfer or standing order:

Account name
MURRAY CJ
Account number 3 2 1 5 0 9 6 2
Sort code 6 0 – 4 0 – 0 5
IBAN GB98NWBK60400532150962
BIC NWBKGB2L
Bank address Natwest, PO Box 414, 38 Strand, London, WC2H 5JB

Bitcoin: bc1q3sdm60rshynxtvfnkhhqjn83vk3e3nyw78cjx9
Ethereum/ERC-20: 0x764a6054783e86C321Cb8208442477d24834861a

Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

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