Craig Murray, the controversial former ambassador to Uzbekistan who was removed from his post, has taken a ?315,000 redundancy payment from the Foreign Office, it emerged yesterday.
Mr Murray was recalled to Britain in October after a memo was leaked to the media in which he criticised the FO’s use of information obtained under torture in Uzbekistan. He was suspended on full pay pending an investigation.
The action capped months of internal investigations in which Mr Murray was accused of being drunk at work, having sex with local girls for visas, and driving the embassy car badly. All charges were subsequently dropped.
“It’s better than a kick in the teeth,” Mr Murray said in a telephone interview. He said the money was part of “a redundancy scheme that is ongoing” in the FO, which all its employees could apply for.
While the payment does not amount to an admission of fault by the FO, Mr Murray said: “Plainly, if they felt they could have made any of the ludicrous charges against me stick they would have sacked me rather than paid me off.”
He said the FO was “very anxious” to avoid a full tribunal investigation of the charges, which would have given him the opportunity to cross-examine the foreign secretary, Jack Straw.
He said he would continue to take legal action against the FO for the damage done to his health by the stress of his ordeal.
He also announced his decision to stand for parliament against Mr Straw in his Blackburn constituency in the expected May general election.
He said: “I think that it will give people the chance to show their disapproval at the government’s foreign policy.”
In a statement he added: “Straw is the foreign secretary who was in charge of MI6 when it produced its dossier of lies on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
“Straw is the foreign secretary who saw the UK enter an illegal war against the wishes of the UN security council.
Straw is the foreign secretary who expressly agreed that MI6 should use intelligence material obtained under torture. And Straw is foreign secretary when we have slavishly sold out any ethical principles for blind support of George Bush.”
The statement added: “Many Labour supporters are angry, disillusioned or plain bewildered by this. Nationally, they still may want Labour to win. But in Blackburn they have the opportunity, by rejecting the foreign secretary, to reject this aberrant foreign policy.”
It continued: “A vote for Jack Straw is a vote for a dossier of lies. A vote is a vote for illegal war. A vote for Jack Straw is a vote for torture. A vote for Jack Straw is a vote for George Bush.”
A FO spokesman said Mr Murray had applied for redundancy and been accepted because of “compassionate and medical circumstances”, adding: “It is absolutely not paying him off.”
He said the investigation had been suspended because they were not able to interview him, for “health reasons”.
Paul Whiteman, the First Division Association official responsible for FO members, said the agreement did not contain a gagging clause and that Mr Murray would still get his FO pension.
He added: “You could say it is a very convenient solution [for the FO] … He has not got anything that his colleagues are not entitled to and is hitting the peak of what this scheme pays out.
“I think he deserves every penny.”