Yearly Archives: 2005


Server Down and Back

As you may have noticed, the site went down yesterday in rather suspicious circumstances and it appears that overload was not the issue. Although we are definetely back in business there are a few residual glitches (:-)) in the archives and formatting that we will be working to put right over the next few days. Please bear with us and keep visiting.

These are interesting days indeed.

Happy new year!

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But what if torture can protect us from terrorism?

The pro-torture arguments just don’t add up, according to Brigadier General David R. Irvine.

While torture apologists frequently make the claim that torture saves lives, that assertion is directly contradicted by many Army, FBI, and CIA professionals who have actually interrogated al Qaeda captives. Exhibit A is the torture-extracted confession of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, an al Qaeda captive who told the CIA in 2001, having been “rendered” to the tender mercies of Egypt, that Saddam Hussein had trained al Qaeda to use WMD. It appears that this confession was the only information upon which, in late 2002, the president, the vice president, and the secretary of state repeatedly claimed that “credible evidence” supported that claim, even though a now-declassified Defense Intelligence Agency report from February 2002 questioned the reliability of the confession because it was likely obtained under torture. Click here to read more

See also: Craig Murray: “Torture means the woman who was raped with a broken bottle, and died after 10 days of agony”.

Click here to read the damning documentary evidence of torture complicity that the British government tried to suppress

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More old news

From the chatter on the web, it’s clear that there are still a few diehard Bush/Blair supporters out there who believe this is about democracy and security.

I hate to disillusion such people, but everyone should be aware of this document:

http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/bushlay12.html

(This was released with other Enron court documents. To anyone covering the Enron story, it meant very little. Now, however….)

…and here’s the full text:

Kenneth L. Lay

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Enron Corp.

P.O. Box 1188

Houston, TX 77251-1188

713-853-6773

Fax 713-853-5313

April 3, 1997

Via Fax: 512/463-1849

The Honorable George W. Bush

Governor of the State of Texas

PO Box 12428

Austin, Texas

Dear George,

You will be meeting with Ambassador Sadyq Safaev, Uzbekistan’s Ambassador to the United States, on April 8th. Ambassador Safaev has been Foreign Minister and the senior advisor to President Karimov before assuming his nation’s most significant foreign responsibility.

Enron has established an office in Tashkent and we are negotiating a $2 billion joint venture with Neftegas of Uzbekistan and Gazprom of Russia to develop Uzbekistan’s natural gas and transport it to markets in Europe, Kazakhstan, and Turkey. This project can bring significant economic opportunities to Texas, as well as Uzbekistan. The political benefits to the United States and to Uzbekistan are important to that entire region.

Ambassador Safaev is one of the most effective of the Washington Corps of Ambassadors, a man who has the attention of his president, and a person who works daily to bring our countries together. For all these reasons, I am delighted that the two of you are meeting.

I know you and Ambassador Safaev will have a productive meeting which will result in a friendship between Texas and Uzbekistan.

Sincerely,

Ken

Natural gas. Electricity. Endless possibilities.

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Damning documentary evidence unveiled. Dissident bloggers in coordinated expose of UK government lies over torture.

Help us beat the British government’s gagging order by mirroring this information on your own site or blog!

Constituent: “This question is for Mr Straw; Have you ever read any

documents where the intelligence has been procured through torturous means?”

Jack Straw: “Not to the best of my knowledge… let me make this clear… the British government does not support torture in any circumstances. Full stop. We do not support the obtaining of intelligence by torture, or its use.” – Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, election hustings, Blackburn, April 2005

I was summoned to the UK for a meeting on 8 March 2003. Michael Wood gave his legal opinion that it was not illegal to obtain and to use intelligence acquired by torture… On behalf of the intelligence services, Matthew Kydd said that they found some of the material very useful indeed with a direct bearing on the war on terror. Linda Duffield said that she had been asked to assure me that my qualms of conscience were respected and understood. Ambassador Craig Murray, memo to the Foreign Office, July 2004

With Tony Blair and Jack Straw cornered on extraordinary rendition, the UK government is particularly anxious to suppress all evidence of our complicity in obtaining intelligence extracted by foreign torturers.

The British Foreign Office is now seeking to block publication of Craig Murray’s forthcoming book, which documents his time as Ambassador to Uzbekistan. The Foreign Office has demanded that Craig Murray remove all references to two especially damning British government documents, indicating that our government was knowingly receiving information extracted by the Uzbeks through torture, and return every copy that he has in his possession.

Craig Murray is refusing to do this. Instead, the documents are today being published simultaneously on blogs all around the world.

The first document contains the text of several telegrams that Craig Murray sent back to London from 2002 to 2004, warning that the information being passed on by the Uzbek security services was torture-tainted, and challenging MI6 claims that the information was nonetheless “useful”.

The second document is the text of a legal opinion from the Foreign Office’s Michael Wood, arguing that the use by intelligence services of information extracted through torture does not constitute a violation of the UN Convention Against Torture.

Craig Murray says:

In March 2003 I was summoned back to London from Tashkent specifically for a meeting at which I was told to stop protesting. I was told specifically that it was perfectly legal for us to obtain and to use intelligence from the Uzbek torture chambers.

After this meeting Sir Michael Wood, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s legal adviser, wrote to confirm this position. This minute from Michael Wood is perhaps the most important document that has become public about extraordinary rendition. It is irrefutable evidence of the government’s use of torture material, and that I was attempting to stop it. It is no wonder that the government is trying to suppress this.

First document: Confidential letters from Uzbekistan

Letter #1

Confidential

FM Tashkent

TO FCO, Cabinet Office, DFID, MODUK, OSCE Posts, Security Council Posts

16 September 02

SUBJECT: US/Uzbekistan: Promoting Terrorism

SUMMARY

US plays down human rights situation in Uzbekistan. A dangerous policy: increasing repression combined with poverty will promote Islamic terrorism. Support to Karimov regime a bankrupt and cynical policy.

DETAIL

The Economist of 7 September states: “Uzbekistan, in particular, has jailed many thousands of moderate Islamists, an excellent way of converting their families and friends to extremism.” The Economist also spoke of “the growing despotism of Mr Karimov” and judged that “the past year has seen a further deterioration of an already grim human rights record”. I agree.

Between 7,000 and 10,000 political and religious prisoners are currently detained, many after trials before kangaroo courts with no representation. Terrible torture is commonplace: the EU is currently considering a demarche over the terrible case of two Muslims tortured to death in jail apparently with boiling water. Two leading dissidents, Elena Urlaeva and Larissa Vdovna, were two weeks ago committed to a lunatic asylum, where they are being drugged, for demonstrating on human rights. Opposition political parties remain banned. There is no doubt that September 11 gave the pretext to crack down still harder on dissent under the guise of counter-terrorism.

Yet on 8 September the US State Department certified that Uzbekistan was improving in both human rights and democracy, thus fulfilling a constitutional requirement and allowing the continuing disbursement of $140 million of US aid to Uzbekistan this year. Human Rights Watch immediately published a commendably sober and balanced rebuttal of the State Department claim.

Again we are back in the area of the US accepting sham reform [a reference to my previous telegram on the economy]. In August media censorship was abolished, and theoretically there are independent media outlets, but in practice there is absolutely no criticism of President Karimov or the central government in any Uzbek media. State Department call this self-censorship: I am not sure that is a fair way to describe an unwillingness to experience the brutal methods of the security services.

Similarly, following US pressure when Karimov visited Washington, a human rights NGO has been permitted to register. This is an advance, but they have little impact given that no media are prepared to cover any of their activities or carry any of their statements.

The final improvement State quote is that in one case of murder of a prisoner the police involved have been prosecuted. That is an improvement, but again related to the Karimov visit and does not appear to presage a general change of policy. On the latest cases of torture deaths the Uzbeks have given the OSCE an incredible explanation, given the nature of the injuries, that the victims died in a fight between prisoners.

But allowing a single NGO, a token prosecution of police officers and a fake press freedom cannot possibly outweigh the huge scale of detentions, the torture and the secret executions. President Karimov has admitted to 100 executions a year but human rights groups believe there are more. Added to this, all opposition parties remain banned (the President got a 98% vote) and the Internet is strictly controlled. All Internet providers must go through a single government server and access is barred to many sites including all dissident and opposition sites and much international media (including, ironically, waronterrorism.com). This is in essence still a totalitarian state: there is far less freedom than still prevails, for example, in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. A Movement for Democratic Change or any judicial independence would be impossible here.

Karimov is a dictator who is committed to neither political nor economic reform. The purpose of his regime is not the development of his country but the diversion of economic rent to his oligarchic supporters through government controls. As a senior Uzbek academic told me privately, there is more repression here now than in Brezhnev’s time. The US are trying to prop up Karimov economically and to justify this support they need to claim that a process of economic and political reform is underway. That they do so claim is either cynicism or self-delusion.

This policy is doomed to failure. Karimov is driving this resource-rich country towards economic ruin like an Abacha. And the policy of increasing repression aimed indiscriminately at pious Muslims, combined with a deepening poverty, is the most certain way to ensure continuing support for the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. They have certainly been decimated and disorganised in Afghanistan, and Karimov’s repression may keep the lid on for years ‘ but pressure is building and could ultimately explode.

I quite understand the interest of the US in strategic airbases and why they back Karimov, but I believe US policy is misconceived. In the short term it may help fight terrorism but in the medium term it will promote it, as the Economist points out. And it can never be right to lower our standards on human rights. There is a complex situation in Central Asia and it is wrong to look at it only through a prism picked up on September 12. Worst of all is what appears to be the philosophy underlying the current US view of Uzbekistan: that September 11 divided the World into two camps in the “War against Terrorism” and that Karimov is on “our” side.

If Karimov is on “our” side, then this war cannot be simply between the forces of good and evil. It must be about more complex things, like securing the long-term US military presence in Uzbekistan. I silently wept at the 11 September commemoration here. The right words on New York have all been said. But last week was also another anniversary ‘ the US-led overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile. The subsequent dictatorship killed, dare I say it, rather more people than died on September 11. Should we not remember then also, and learn from that too? I fear that we are heading down the same path of US-sponsored dictatorship here. It is ironic that the beneficiary is perhaps the most unreformed of the World’s old communist leaders.

We need to think much more deeply about Central Asia. It is easy to place Uzbekistan in the “too difficult” tray and let the US run with it, but I think they are running in the wrong direction. We should tell them of the dangers we see. Our policy is theoretically one of engagement, but in practice this has not meant much. Engagement makes sense, but it must mean grappling with the problems, not mute collaboration. We need to start actively to state a distinctive position on democracy and human rights, and press for a realistic view to be taken in the IMF. We should continue to resist pressures to start a bilateral DFID programme, unless channelled non-governmentally, and not restore ECGD cover despite the constant lobbying. We should not invite Karimov to the UK. We should step up our public diplomacy effort, stressing democratic values, including more resources from the British Council. We should increase support to human rights activists, and strive for contact with non-official Islamic groups.

Above all we need to care about the 22 million Uzbek people, suffering from poverty and lack of freedom. They are not just pawns in the new Great Game.

MURRAY

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Letter #2

Confidential

Fm Tashkent

To FCO

18 March 2003

SUBJECT: US FOREIGN POLICY

SUMMARY

1. As seen from Tashkent, US policy is not much focussed on democracy or freedom. It is about oil, gas and hegemony. In Uzbekistan the US pursues those ends through supporting a ruthless dictatorship. We must not close our eyes to uncomfortable truth.

DETAIL

2. Last year the US gave half a billion dollars in aid to Uzbekistan, about a quarter of it military aid. Bush and Powell repeatedly hail Karimov as a friend and ally. Yet this regime has at least seven thousand prisoners of conscience; it is a one party state without freedom of speech, without freedom of media, without freedom of movement, without freedom of assembly, without freedom of religion. It practices, systematically, the most hideous tortures on thousands. Most of the population live in conditions precisely analogous with medieval serfdom.

3. Uzbekistan’s geo-strategic position is crucial. It has half the population of the whole of Central Asia. It alone borders all the other states in a region which is important to future Western oil and gas supplies. It is the regional military power. That is why the US is here, and here to stay. Contractors at the US military bases are extending the design life of the buildings from ten to twenty five years.

4. Democracy and human rights are, despite their protestations to the contrary, in practice a long way down the US agenda here. Aid this year will be slightly less, but there is no intention to introduce any meaningful conditionality. Nobody can believe this level of aid ‘ more than US aid to all of West Africa ‘ is related to comparative developmental need as opposed to political support for Karimov. While the US makes token and low-level references to human rights to appease domestic opinion, they view Karimov’s vicious regime as a bastion against fundamentalism. He ‘ and they ‘ are in fact creating fundamentalism. When the US gives this much support to a regime that tortures people to death for having a beard or praying five times a day, is it any surprise that Muslims come to hate the West?

5. I was stunned to hear that the US had pressured the EU to withdraw a motion on Human Rights in Uzbekistan which the EU was tabling at the UN Commission for Human Rights in Geneva. I was most unhappy to find that we are helping the US in what I can only call this cover-up. I am saddened when the US constantly quote fake improvements in human rights in Uzbekistan, such as the abolition of censorship and Internet freedom, which quite simply have not happened (I see these are quoted in the draft EBRD strategy for Uzbekistan, again I understand at American urging).

6. From Tashkent it is difficult to agree that we and the US are activated by shared values. Here we have a brutal US sponsored dictatorship reminiscent of Central and South American policy under previous US Republican administrations. I watched George Bush talk today of Iraq and “dismantling the apparatus of terror’ removing the torture chambers and the rape rooms”. Yet when it comes to the Karimov regime, systematic torture and rape appear to be treated as peccadilloes, not to affect the relationship and to be downplayed in international fora. Double standards? Yes.

7. I hope that once the present crisis is over we will make plain to the US, at senior level, our serious concern over their policy in Uzbekistan.

MURRAY

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Letter #3

CONFIDENTIAL

FM TASHKENT

TO IMMEDIATE FCO

TELNO 63

OF 220939 JULY 04

INFO IMMEDIATE DFID, ISLAMIC POSTS, MOD, OSCE POSTS UKDEL EBRD LONDON, UKMIS GENEVA, UKMIS MEW YORK

SUBJECT: RECEIPT OF INTELLIGENCE OBTAINED UNDER TORTURE

SUMMARY

1. We receive intelligence obtained under torture from the Uzbek intelligence services, via the US. We should stop. It is bad information anyway. Tortured dupes are forced to sign up to confessions showing what the Uzbek government wants the US and UK to believe, that they and we are fighting the same war against terror.

2. I gather a recent London interdepartmental meeting considered the question and decided to continue to receive the material. This is morally, legally and practically wrong. It exposes as hypocritical our post Abu Ghraib pronouncements and fatally undermines our moral standing. It obviates my efforts to get the Uzbek government to stop torture they are fully aware our intelligence community laps up the results.

3. We should cease all co-operation with the Uzbek Security Services they are beyond the pale. We indeed need to establish an SIS presence here, but not as in a friendly state.

DETAIL

4. In the period December 2002 to March 2003 I raised several times the issue of intelligence material from the Uzbek security services which was obtained under torture and passed to us via the CIA. I queried the legality, efficacy and morality of the practice.

5. I was summoned to the UK for a meeting on 8 March 2003. Michael Wood gave his legal opinion that it was not illegal to obtain and to use intelligence acquired by torture. He said the only legal limitation on its use was that it could not be used in legal proceedings, under Article 15 of the UN Convention on Torture.

6. On behalf of the intelligence services, Matthew Kydd said that they found some of the material very useful indeed with a direct bearing on the war on terror. Linda Duffield said that she had been asked to assure me that my qualms of conscience were respected and understood.

7. Sir Michael Jay’s circular of 26 May stated that there was a reporting obligation on us to report torture by allies (and I have been instructed to refer to Uzbekistan as such in the context of the war on terror). You, Sir, have made a number of striking, and I believe heartfelt, condemnations of torture in the last few weeks. I had in the light of this decided to return to this question and to highlight an apparent contradiction in our policy. I had intimated as much to the Head of Eastern Department.

8. I was therefore somewhat surprised to hear that without informing me of the meeting, or since informing me of the result of the meeting, a meeting was convened in the FCO at the level of Heads of Department and above, precisely to consider the question of the receipt of Uzbek intelligence material obtained under torture. As the office knew, I was in London at the time and perfectly able to attend the meeting. I still have only gleaned that it happened.

9. I understand that the meeting decided to continue to obtain the Uzbek torture material. I understand that the principal argument deployed was that the intelligence material disguises the precise source, ie it does not ordinarily reveal the name of the individual who is tortured. Indeed this is true ‘ the material is marked with a euphemism such as “From detainee debriefing.” The argument runs that if the individual is not named, we cannot prove that he was tortured.

10. I will not attempt to hide my utter contempt for such casuistry, nor my shame that I work in and organisation where colleagues would resort to it to justify torture. I have dealt with hundreds of individual cases of political or religious prisoners in Uzbekistan, and I have met with very few where torture, as defined in the UN convention, was not employed. When my then DHM raised the question with the CIA head of station 15 months ago, he readily acknowledged torture was deployed in obtaining intelligence. I do not think there is any doubt as to the fact

11. The torture record of the Uzbek security services could hardly be more widely known. Plainly there are, at the very least, reasonable grounds for believing the material is obtained under torture. There is helpful guidance at Article 3 of the UN Convention;

“The competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the state concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.” While this article forbids extradition or deportation to Uzbekistan, it is the right test for the present question also.

12. On the usefulness of the material obtained, this is irrelevant. Article 2 of the Convention, to which we are a party, could not be plainer:

“No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

13. Nonetheless, I repeat that this material is useless ‘ we are selling our souls for dross. It is in fact positively harmful. It is designed to give the message the Uzbeks want the West to hear. It exaggerates the role, size, organisation and activity of the IMU and its links with Al Qaida. The aim is to convince the West that the Uzbeks are a vital cog against a common foe, that they should keep the assistance, especially military assistance, coming, and that they should mute the international criticism on human rights and economic reform.

14. I was taken aback when Matthew Kydd said this stuff was valuable. Sixteen months ago it was difficult to argue with SIS in the area of intelligence assessment. But post Butler we know, not only that they can get it wrong on even the most vital and high profile issues, but that they have a particular yen for highly coloured material which exaggerates the threat. That is precisely what the Uzbeks give them. Furthermore MI6 have no operative within a thousand miles of me and certainly no expertise that can come close to my own in making this assessment.

15. At the Khuderbegainov trial I met an old man from Andizhan. Two of his children had been tortured in front of him until he signed a confession on the family’s links with Bin Laden. Tears were streaming down his face. I have no doubt they had as much connection with Bin Laden as I do. This is the standard of the Uzbek intelligence services.

16. I have been considering Michael Wood’s legal view, which he kindly gave in writing. I cannot understand why Michael concentrated only on Article 15 of the Convention. This certainly bans the use of material obtained under torture as evidence in proceedings, but it does not state that this is the sole exclusion of the use of such material.

17. The relevant article seems to me Article 4, which talks of complicity in torture. Knowingly to receive its results appears to be at least arguable as complicity. It does not appear that being in a different country to the actual torture would preclude complicity. I talked this over in a hypothetical sense with my old friend Prof Francois Hampson, I believe an acknowledged World authority on the Convention, who said that the complicity argument and the spirit of the Convention would be likely to be winning points. I should be grateful to hear Michael’s views on this.

18. It seems to me that there are degrees of complicity and guilt, but being at one or two removes does not make us blameless. There are other factors. Plainly it was a breach of Article 3 of the Convention for the coalition to deport detainees back here from Baghram, but it has been done. That seems plainly complicit.

19. This is a difficult and dangerous part of the World. Dire and increasing poverty and harsh repression are undoubtedly turning young people here towards radical Islam. The Uzbek government are thus creating this threat, and perceived US support for Karimov strengthens anti-Western feeling. SIS ought to establish a presence here, but not as partners of the Uzbek Security Services, whose sheer brutality puts them beyond the pale.

MURRAY

Second Document – summary of legal opinion from Michael Wood arguing that it is legal to use information extracted under torture:

Copy of original fax

From: Michael Wood, Legal Advisor

Date: 13 March 2003

CC: PS/PUS; Matthew Kidd, WLD

Linda Duffield

UZBEKISTAN: INTELLIGENCE POSSIBLY OBTAINED UNDER TORTURE

1. Your record of our meeting with HMA Tashkent recorded that Craig had said that his understanding was that it was also an offence under the UN Convention on Torture to receive or possess information under torture. I said that I did not believe that this was the case, but undertook to re-read the Convention.

2. I have done so. There is nothing in the Convention to this effect. The nearest thing is article 15 which provides:

“Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made.”

3. This does not create any offence. I would expect that under UK law any statement established to have been made as a result of torture would not be admissible as evidence.

[signed]

M C Wood

Legal Adviser

A PDF version of the letters is available for download from here

The fax can also be downloaded from here

Mainstream and blog news coverage of the story as it develops is being logged here and here

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Another blow to the UK government’s ban on free speech – Catholics commemorate the dead inside the exclusion zone. No arrests made.

From the BBC

Iraq protest in ‘demo ban zone’

More demonstrators have gathered in an “exclusion zone” to test the limits of a law banning protests without the police authorisation.

Catholic peace group Pax Christi read out names of children killed in the Iraq conflict at Downing Street.

Members said prayers at the event, which did not have police permission, but officers chose not to intervene.

Maya Evans, who read out names at the Cenotaph of soldiers killed in Iraq, has been convicted under the new law.

The 25-year-old was found guilty of breaching Section 132 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, which covers a half-mile area around Parliament, and given a conditional discharge.

Since her conviction, others have been testing the new law – originally designed to evict peace protester Brian Haw, whose anti-war vigil has been a fixture in Parliament Square for four years.

He remains in the square, having successfully fought his case in the High Court.

On 21 December, about 100 carol singers gathered in Parliament Square, but no-one was arrested.

Pax Christi’s British chairman Stuart Hemsley told the BBC News website he read out the names of 29 British soldiers with children, who had been killed in Iraq.

The group also picked out the names of 50 Iraqi children aged five and under.

“We had no problems from the police whatsoever, they just stood there looking stony-faced. It was as if we weren’t there.

“I am not disappointed I have not been arrested but I wonder if this will now set a precedent.”

He said the group of 15 wanted to pray and worship at the seat of power in the hope they would continue to raise awareness of the situation in Iraq.

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Alleged MI6 torturer back in Britain – but will he face justice?

From the Telegraph

An alleged MI6 station chief in Athens has been recalled to Britain “for his own safety” after being identified by a Greek newspaper.

It reported that he had taken part in the abduction and brutal interrogation of Pakistanis.

As the Government placed a gag order to stop British media from naming the alleged spy, who is officially accredited as a diplomat, a well-placed Greek security source said his recall was “not done as punishment or as retribution of any kind for the unfavourable turn of events”.

He added: “It is more of a standard precautionary measure because his intelligence role can no longer be effective in Greece.”

The Foreign Office declined to comment yesterday. It merely noted that Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, had previously dismissed as “utter nonsense” claims by the Pakistani workers to have been beaten by British and Greek counter-terrorism officers last July as they investigated links to the London bombings.

One claimed he had a gun put in his mouth as he was questioned about telephone calls to London and Pakistan.

Proto Thema, a Greek magazine, said the MI6 station chief had taken part in the interrogations with a second MI6 officer who was not named.

It also unmasked 15 Greek intelligence officials in revelations denounced by Athens as illegal “because they endanger national security”.

Greek authorities said they had had to recall two of their intelligence agents from Kosovo.

The alleged spy has previously been identified as an MI6 officer on the internet and in allegations made by Richard Tomlinson, a renegade MI6 officer.

Seven of the 28 detainees, who say they were held for several days then set free without charge, have lodged official complaints in Athens.

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Europe-wide arrest warrants issued for CIA agents suspected of kidnapping and complicity in torture

From Reuters

MILAN (Reuters) – A Milan court has issued a European arrest warrant for 22 CIA agents suspected of kidnapping an Egyptian cleric from Italy’s financial capital in 2003, Prosecutor Armando Spataro said on Friday.

Milan magistrates suspect a CIA team grabbed Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr off a Milan street and flew him for interrogation to Egypt, where he said he was tortured.

Prosecutors asked the Italian Justice Ministry last month to seek the extradition of the suspects from the United States, but Justice Minister Roberto Castelli has not yet decided whether to act on the request.

A European Union warrant is automatically valid across the 25-nation bloc and does not require approval of any government.

The warrant was agreed by the European Union in the wake of the Sept 11 attacks on the United States in 2001 and was hailed as a key part of the bloc’s fight against terrorism.

Spataro told Reuters he had also asked Interpol to try to detain the suspects anywhere in the world.

Earlier this week, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said he did not believe CIA agents had kidnapped Nasr, but added that governments were not going to defeat terrorism by playing by the rules.

Justice officials believe Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, is still in custody in Egypt. Italian investigators have accused him of ties to al Qaeda and recruiting combatants for Iraq, and a Milan judge has issued a warrant for his arrest.

There has been a series of investigations into whether U.S. intelligence officials used Europe as a hub to illegally transfer militant suspects to third countries for interrogation.

The U.S. embassy in Rome was not immediately available for comment.

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Will Tony Blair arrest us for singing songs of peace and goodwill in Parliament Square at 6pm this evening? Christmas Carol concert will test the limits of government free speech ban.

BBC News

Carol singers are to become the latest group to defy a ban on unauthorised protests around Parliament.

The group will test the limits of the new Serious Organised Crime and Police Act by singing in Parliament Square from 1800 GMT on Wednesday.

The law makes demonstrating without police permission an arrestable offence near Parliament.

Singers include long-term anti-war protester Brian Haw and Maya Evans – the first protester to be convicted.

Ironically Mr Haw is the one protester exempt from the ban, due to a Home Office drafting error.

He successfully argued in the High Court that as his four-year vigil pre-dated the law, he did not have to apply for authorisation to continue.

Since the law came into force in August, several people have been arrested and other protesters have been warned off.

Peace campaigner Ms Evans was the first to be convicted under the Act, after reading out the names of soldiers killed in Iraq at the Cenotaph.

Mr Haw will lead the Lord’s Prayer at the service on Wednesday, joined by others including former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, and a 7 July bombings survivor.

A spokesman for the carol singers, Tim Ireland, said: “In this instance, the police have not been notified. They’ve been invited, certainly, but they have not been notified.

“We believe that the public has the right to gather in a public place and sing Christmas carols. The police may see things differently, we shall see.”

A Scotland Yard spokeswoman was not able to comment on whether a carol service constituted a demonstration and said a decision about whether to take action would be taken on the day.

Hundreds of people will today risk arrest and prosecution by singing Christmas Carols in Parliament Square.

The service will be supported by Maya Anne Evans, recently prosecuted for reading out the names of dead British soldiers near the Cenotaph, together with the former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray, who was forced out of his job for criticising the use of torture, and Rachel North, a survivor of the July 7th bombings.

Writing on her blog, Rachel North says:

“I have been more or less unable to deal with Christmas this year… All the sentiments of peace on earth, hope, joy, when it felt like we were reaching the end of a year of horrible bloodshed and hate and death and war, led by men who claim to be godly, but know so little of compassion, of peace… That both fighting sides say they do it for ‘God’ and ‘freedom’ and ‘justice’ as they murder and main is more than I can stand…

I urge you to join us if you can make it, in Parliament Square on Wednesday this week at 6pm. It’s important to protect these traditions, beloved of us all in this country for a thousand years. Now more than ever.”

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Foreign office staff threatened resignations in bid to stop US bombing of Al Jazeera. Jack Straw lies over CIA flights.

From Ringverse

The British Foreign Office privately accepts that CIA rendition flights did pass through its territory, a diplomatic source told United Press International.

The well-placed source said the Foreign Office “totally accepts” that the United States used British airfields to transfer prisoners abroad for interrogation, and is “extremely worried” about the political consequences.

The revelation comes amid growing signs of divergence between London and Washington over the way in which the war on terror should be conducted.

When British Prime Minister Tony Blair learnt in April 2003 that the United States had bombed a Baghdad hotel in which several media organizations were housed, killing three journalists, he “literally jumped out of his chair,” the source told UPI. The Foreign Office was “horrified,” considering the attack to be “obscene,” the source said.

London took the same attitude towards a U.S. suggestion that it would attack the Qatar headquarters of the Arabic language television al-Jazeera, the source said.

Foreign Office officials threatened to resign if the Americans went ahead with the attacks, revealed in a Downing Street memo leaked to the British media earlier this year.

Blair reportedly talked U.S. President George W. Bush out of the attacks, warning it could fuel a worldwide backlash. The Mirror newspaper quoted a source as saying: “There’s no doubt what Bush wanted, and no doubt Blair didn’t want him to do it.”

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Extraordinary Rendition – the cover-up continues

Questions from Ming Campbell to Goverment Minister Adam Ingram in the House of Commons on 14th December

Sir Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) on how many occasions since September 2001 US-registered aircraft tail number (a) N313P and (b) N44982, formerly N8068V and N379P, has landed at United Kingdom military airfields with (i) Kabul and (ii) Baghdad as its (A) origin and (B) destination; [35460]

(2) on how many occasions since September 2001 US-registered aircraft tail number (a) N313P and (b) N44982, formerly N8068V and N379P, has landed at United Kingdom military airfields with an airport in (i) Jordan, (ii) Syria, (iii) Romania and (iv) Poland as its (A) origin and (B) destination; [35444]

(3) on how many occasions since September 2001 US-registered aircraft tail number (a) N313P and (b) N44982, formerly N8068V and N379P, has landed at United Kingdom military airfields with an airport in (i) Libya, (ii) Uzbekistan, (iii) Morocco and (iv) Egypt as its (A) origin and (B) destination. [35443]

Mr. Ingram: The information requested is not recorded centrally and could be provided only at a disproportionate cost.

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British Police Begin Inquiry Into Alleged CIA Torture Flights

By Richard Norton-Taylor in The Guardian

A chief constable has begun inquiries into allegations that CIA “torture flights” have landed in Britain, the human rights group, Liberty, said yesterday. It said Michael Todd, chief constable of Greater Manchester police, had agreed to start investigations on behalf of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo). Mr Todd is the member of Acpo’s terrorism committee responsible for aviation.

After meeting with Mr Todd, the director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, said: “We are very pleased that the police are taking these concerns seriously. If suspects are being taken through the UK to face torture, there have been serious breaches of international and domestic law. We intend to help the police and call on individuals with any information to come forward.” Acpo described the meeting as “useful” and said further talks were planned in January.

A Greater Manchester police spokesman said it had been a “useful exploratory discussion”.

Liberty acted after the Guardian reported that CIA or CIA-chartered jets had flown into the UK approximately 210 times since 2001. It wrote to the chief constables of Bedfordshire, Dorset, Essex, Hampshire, the Metropolitan police, the Ministry of Defence police, Suffolk, Sussex, Thames Valley and West Midlands last month asking them to seek assurances from the US that it is not using British airports to transport – or “render” – terrorist suspects to secret camps or countries known to have tortured prisoners.

Liberty said the police had asked for further evidence, and has asked anyone with information about CIA flights using British airspace or airports to contact the organisation, even anonymously.

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Condi’s iffy rendition of ‘Evita’

By Tom Blackburn in the Palm Beach Post

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice did her impression of Evita Peron’s Rainbow Tour through Europe two weeks ago. Did the lady win through? As the song says, “The answer is yes… and no.”

She did shift the subject briefly from torture to “extraordinary rendition.” But her audience didn’t believe her about that, either. At the end, European foreign ministers made noises as if they believed her, but they have to live with the big galoot she represents, believe her or not.

(more…)

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America kidnapped me

From the Los Angeles Times

By Khaled El-Masri, KHALED EL-MASRI, a German citizen born in Lebanon, was a car salesman before he was detained in December 2003.

THE U.S. POLICY of “extraordinary rendition” has a human face, and it is mine.

I am still recovering from an experience that was completely beyond the pale, outside the bounds of any legal framework and unacceptable in any civilized society. Because I believe in the American system of justice, I sued George Tenet, the former CIA director, last week. What happened to me should never be allowed to happen again.

(more…)

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Evidence Mounts Against UK Governments Denials Over Extraordinary Rendition

Click to watch the TV report

Channel Four News has learned new details about suspected rendition flights through the UK at military airfield, RAF Northolt. Officially ministers are still insisting that information about flights is not recorded centrally and would prove too costly to provide.

But their foreign affairs correspondent Jonathan Miller has been following the trail.

Click here to watch their special news report

In addition, this press release from Amnesty International provides further details linking flights to renditions.

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Public Carol Service in Parliament Square

Public Carol Service

You are cordially invited to a public carol service in Parliament Square at 6pm on Wednesday the 21st of December 2005.

This inclusive service will contain both Christian and secular verse, and is expected to last no more than an hour.

Candles and song sheets will be made available, with donations going to Medical Aid for Iraqi Children.

Please note that if you attend this carol service, it will classify as a spontaneous demonstration (of faith, hope, joy and/or religious tolerance) and there is a possibility that you will be cautioned or arrested under Section 132 of the Serious and Organised Crimes and Police Act 2005.

Click here for more information.

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Torture: security vs. values

The U.S. struggles to draw the line on interrogation

By Douglas Birch in the Baltimore Sun

Last year on an Afghan mountainside near the Pakistan border, a group of U.S. paratroopers on patrol spotted a 14-year-old hiding a cache of weapons and explosives. In the presence of a Sun reporter, they forced the boy to kneel on the rocky ground and put all his weight on his knees for an hour while heavily armed soldiers angrily questioned him.

Several times, the boy grimaced from the pain, closed his eyes and tottered, looking as though he were ready to faint. But he never admitted hiding weapons, even as soldiers scouring nearby caves stacked rockets, rifles and thousands of bullets in the dust nearby.

The weapons could have been used in deadly attacks. But the paratroopers were clearly uneasy about inflicting pain to leverage information, and – although they threatened to arrest their suspect – finally released the teenager with a warning. He was, as one said, “just a boy.”

(more…)

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Tortuous Distinctions

The bitter row over secret “renditions” of terrorist suspects has highlighted fundamental differences between Europe and America over law and morality, Ian Black argues

From The Guardian

It’s not every day that the Council of Europe (CoE) tops the news bulletins, and unusual for a little-known Swiss senator to make headlines across the world. The 46-member human rights watchdog is routinely confused with the European Council – that’s the EU when it meets at head of government level. The Strasbourg-based body has no power at all – except to suspend members who break the rules.

But the CoE’s Dick Marty dropped a bombshell this week when he suggested that European governments may have been secretly cooperating with the US in its practice of kidnapping terrorist suspects -“extraordinary rendition” in American bureaucratese. That has given the organisation its rare moment in the limelight – and generated fresh embarrassment around a highly controversial issue.

(more…)

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Uzbekistan: Andijon Residents Speak About The Trials

From RFE/RL

On 14 December, Uzbekistan’s Supreme Court announced the beginning of the first trial of Uzbek officials in connection with the bloodshed in Andijon in May, RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service reported. In a stark reminder of the gulf that now separates Uzbekistan from Western countries, which have called for an independent investigation of eyewitness accounts that Uzbek security services perpetrated a massacre in Andijon, the officials face charges not of employing excessive force, but rather of negligence in the performance of their duties.

On trial are 10 police officers, two prison medics, five prison guards, and 19 soldiers. One of the police on trial is Dilmurod Oqmirzaev, former head of the Interior Ministry’s Andijon section.

Most of the accused face charges of negligence on 12-13 May, when a group of armed men in Andijon carried out attacks on a local prison and army post before seizing the government administration building in the city center. The medics testified at an earlier trial that they supplied a mobile phone and relayed messages to Akram Yoldoshev, the jailed leader of the so-called Akramiya movement who Uzbek authorities have charged was behind the violence in Andijon. Elsewhere in Uzbekistan, 78 people are on trial for alleged direct involvement in the violence.

Behind Closed Doors

All of the trials are closed to the public, journalists, and human rights activists. In its statement, the Supreme Court said the measure was necessary to safeguard “state secrets in the criminal cases” and to guarantee “the security of victims, witnesses, and other trial participants.”

The first Andijon trial, which began on 20 September with guilty pleas from all 15 defendants and ended on 14 November with prison terms of 14-20 years, received heavy coverage from the international press. But as Human Rights Watch (HRW) noted in a 30 November press release on the organization’s website, the Uzbek government has blocked access to subsequent trials. Allison Gill, HRW’s representative in Tashkent, told RFE/RL why she thinks the authorities decided to clamp down.

“The government used the first trial as a theatrical spectacle to convey its version of events to the Uzbek people and the international community,” Gill said. “The trial was covered every day in detail by Uzbekistan’s state television channels, and foreign observers and correspondents were given permission to attend. But because the trial absolutely failed to meet fair-trial standards, it evoked very negative reactions. In order to prevent mounting criticism, the government decided to hold all further trials on the Andijon events behind closed doors. Moreover, there is the possibility, however small, that witnesses or defendants could open their mouths and say things that depart from the government’s script. This is why the trials are closed.”

‘Eliminate The Witnesses’

In Andijon itself, residents had their own reactions to the latest trial. “In the first place, the people on trial were witnesses to the events of 13 May,” one Andijon resident told RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service. “The most important task for Uzbekistan’s president today is to eliminate such witnesses because they could talk at some point in the future.”

The resident said he was personally acquainted with defendant Dilmurod Oqmirzaev, the former head of the Interior Ministry section in Andijon Province. “It’s now clear that evil, heartless men are coming to take the place of good police officers like Oqimirzaev,” the local said. “This is what they’re doing now to keep the people of Andijon in fear.”

Police Not To Blame

Asked about the actions of police on 13 May, the resident replied: “On 13 May, there were a lot of police in civilian dress and with white armbands. You could see on the faces of many police that they were being forced to do their work.” The individual said that some police showed a desire to join the demonstrators who gathered in the center of Andijon on 13 May, while others shouted at the protestors and threatened them with their weapons. He summed up, “Now the good police officers are on trial, while the ones who threatened the people with weapons are still doing their jobs.”

An elderly resident of Andijon told RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service that police conducted themselves honorably during the demonstrations that took place in Andijon before 13 May as a verdict neared in the trial of 23 businesspeople accused of membership of the Akramiya movement. “When our children were on trial, the police and their commanding officers were in the area,” she said. “We didn’t see them do anything bad.”

The woman asserted that the police were not responsible for the shooting on 13 May. “On 13 May in Andijon, it wasn’t the police, but the soldiers who shot at us,” she said. “The soldiers shot at us in Chulpon Street and in the village of Teshiktosh. We didn’t see any police or police commanders.”

Dilshodbek Tullakhujaev, the head of the Democratic Initiative Center in Andijon Province, told RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service that if any officials should be charged with dereliction of duty in connection with the events of 12-13 May, they should be from the National Security Service (SNB).

“When the attack began [on the night of 12 May], there were no commanders or officers on duty at the army post,” the man said. “As a result, they should be tried. But the heads of the provincial Interior Ministry section weren’t at fault. In my view, the main fault lies with the SNB. Now, the main job of the SNB is fighting against rights activists and democrats.”

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