Daily archives: August 17, 2005

The killing of Jean Charles de Menezes

Craig Murray reacts to the latest revelations about the probable murder of Jean Charles de Menezes

I am not sure which scares me most ‘ the way the police murdered Jean Charles de Menezes, or the lies they told about it afterwards. It is worth bearing in mind that when the Police and the Home Office went into overdrive to spin their dramatic falsehoods ‘ that he vaulted the ticket barrier, ran through the station, wore a padded jacket and leapt onto the train ‘ they still thought they had killed a terrorist, not a Brazilian electrician.

We now know that Mr Menezes had a ticket and passed the barrier the normal way, walked quietly through the station, picked up a newspaper, boarded the train quietly and sat down. He was then pinioned by a policeman and shot at eleven times by at least two others while immobilised in his seat.

That makes it not just an unlawful killing, but plain murder. And it would still be murder even if Mr Menezes was indeed a terrorist. That was unequivocally established by the Death on the Rock case, where the European Court ruled that it was illegal to assassinate IRA terrorists in cold blood in Gibraltar, whether or not they were engaged in a bombing operation.

The government are acutely aware of that precedent. That is why the lies about his bizarre behaviour were so quickly concocted, and assiduously spread. They did so with the help of a compliant media establishment that repeated these lies ad nauseam to an excited public. And of course, the liar in chief was Sir Ian Blair himself. He must now resign immediately. I have never believed in eugenics, but the evidence of the unique propensity to lying of the clan Blair is pretty compelling, though I confess my sample of two is statistically insignificant.

One of my chief allies in fighting for human rights in Uzbekistan was Professor Douwe Korff, a key member of the legal team that brought the British government to book over Death on the Rock. It is typical of this government that Charles Clark’s reaction in his Evening Standard interview is to threaten British judges with new legislation to restrict their power to defend liberty. He also specifically threatened legislation to remove us from European Court jurisdiction ‘ no more Death on the Rock cases, then.

You could read about Douwe and I working in Uzbekistan in my forthcoming book, except that I have now received four letters and last evening a phone call from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to tell me I can’t publish it. It tells of Jack Straw’s decision that MI6 should use intelligence obtained under torture by foreign intelligence agencies. They don’t want you to know that. I had hoped that Straw’s decision was an isolated bit of over-zealousness.

I now know that it was part of a systematic lowering of our standards on human rights across the board. Blair is, beyond denial, leading the most authoritarian government since Lord Liverpool In fact Blair’s proposals outdo for sheer illiberalism the notorious Six Acts, which every schoolboy for generations learnt of as the most heinous assault on British liberties, happily overcome.

Blair’s media support is of two sorts. The right wing press share this analysis, but applaud it. They have the most populist right wing leader in British history, and are delighted. On the other side The Blair project cheerleaders who dominate the Guardian are stuck with their monstrous delusions.

The BBC remains cowed by the Gilligan affair, and large job losses. The fact that Gilligan told the truth ‘ there were no Iraqi WMD ‘ perversely diminished rather than increased their confidence. Telling the truth gets you shafted. Toeing Tony’s line gets you promoted.

Tony Blair’s new raft of ‘Anti-terrorist’ proposals includes deporting people for visiting certain bookshops and websites. Police continued their policy of ramping up media hype by smashing open, for the cameras, the door of a Muslim bookshop in Leeds. The owners had actually given them the keys and invited them to look around. No propaganda value in that, so out came the battering ram.

The media have carried rubbish in screaming headlines about the bomb attacks on 7 and 21 July. They were perpetrated by Al Qaida, they were funded from Pakistan, the two groups were linked. All rubbish. And of course we had Tony Blair’s repeated assertion that anger at our invasion of Iraq was in no way the cause. To understand was to excuse.

I condemn terrorism unequivocally. It is in every sense immoral and unreasoned. But it is not a natural phenomenon like the Birmingham tornado – Blair’s actions provoked it. The invasion of Iraq based on a tissue of lies, the co-operation with security services of regimes that practice torture throughout the Muslim World, the support for Bush and Sharon on settlements policy, the imprisonments without trial and other attacks on liberty in the UK.

After the 9/11 attacks, I recall the general reaction of the British intelligentsia was to ask why the Americans failed to understand what it was that caused them to be hated in much of the rest of the World. In our own hurt following the London bombings, we are making the same mistake.

It will be little comfort to the family and friends of Mr Menezes, but there is some hope that his death and the exposure of the spin that surrounded it will cause some reaction to the way this country is headed.

It is essential to the survival of liberty in this country that the killers of Mr Menezes stand in the dock. Doubtless the press will mount a campaign to defend them. Isn’t it time we were given their names? I don’t recall the identities of other alleged killers such as Barry Bolsara or Peter Sutcliffe being protected before their trial. The police have happily given out the name of several people who turned out to be completely uninvolved, including a Leeds muslim chemist who went on holiday to Egypt (dead suspicious).

Let’s have the names of the killers. At least we can avoid sitting next to them on the tube. Given the manner of cold-blooded execution, I suspect they may turn out to be SAS or MI5. But the blame must not stop with the men who pulled the triggers. Nor does it lie solely with the people that provided the so-called intelligence identifying Mr Menezes. The real blame lies with those who sanctioned the ‘shoot to kill’ policy defended in such macho fashion by Jack Straw and Charles Clarke.

They must now resign. British liberty will not recover until Charles Clarke and Ian Blair stand in the dock for their part in this murder.

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“Should Not Be Known”

As we approach September 1st, the day of international blogging on Uzbekistan and the call for sanctions against cotton exports, we are posting the following excerpt from Chapter 12 of Craig Murray’s forthcoming book.

After leaving Ergashev, I said goodbye to Vakhida, who left in a police car for the airport, to fly back and work for Nick. I would be without an interpreter for the rest of the day, but would be joined by a professional one in the morning in Namangan, to which city we were due to head that night. I judged we still had plenty of time to visit the University, and told Gafur so. He was standing smoking and chatting with the escorting policemen. They looked dubious and called the Deputy Hokkim, who had repaired to a nearby chaikhana while I was with Ergashev.

“Please, Mr Ambassador,” he said, “it is late, and it is dangerous to drive to Namangan after dark.”

“It’s not that late. An hour at the university and we can be away by five.”

“But I believe we are not expected now at the University.”

My hackles were beginning to rise.

“Well, think what a pleasant surprise it will be for them.”

The deputy gave a wan smile, and got back into his Daewoo Maxima, which had dark pleated curtains at the windows. I climbed into the back of my Discovery; it seemed strangely empty now, with only Gafur and I in it. The police cars started off and we followed. After about twenty minutes, we were heading out of town.

“Gafur, where are we going?”, I asked.

“This is the road to Namangan, ambassador.”

“Is the university this way?”

“No, Ambassador.”

“Do you know where the University is?”

“Yes, I think so.” I had explained to the Embassy drivers that, within reason, they should always reconnoitre the day’s calls in the early morning or the evening before.

“Then stop.”

“Sorry, Ambassador?”

“STOP! We’re going to the university.”

Obviously impressed by the drama of the moment, Gafur slammed on the brakes and we slewed to a halt. The lead police car and the Hokkim’s Daewoo carried on ahead of us, turning round a corner. The police car behind had to brake quickly, and the doors opened as the police got out to see what the problem was. Gafur, having halted, was turned round looking quizzically at me.

“The university, Gafur. Drive to the university.”

“OK, sir”

It was a wide road, and Gafur spun the Discovery round. We sped off, leaving the puzzled policemen standing in the street staring at us. Gafur had worked out we were giving the escort the slip, because he drove like crazy through the streets of Ferghana. The escort caught up with us again just as we pulled up in front of the university. I waited for the deputy hokkim on the steps. He simply gave me a wan smile. I wanted to go straight to the English department, but he insisted that we should first call on the Rector. I was happy to concede that one.

The university building was a large brick edifice that would not have looked out of place in any British provincial university. The Rector was sour-faced and unwelcoming, and we endured fifteen minutes of stilted conversation over tea. We then walked down to the English centre, our footsteps echoing from the vaulted ceilings. The most striking thing about the University was that it was so devoid of life ‘ there seemed to be virtually no-one around.

In the English language centre I met two charming old ladies who taught there. They showed me with great pride the books they had been given by the British Council, and their cataloguing system. The only thing that worried me was that they all appeared to be neatly on the shelves, as opposed to being used by students. I had another cup of tea with the old ladies and two part-time students who had come in. They all said how delighted they were to meet a genuine English speaker. Their standard was very good, given that none of them had ever visited an English speaking country. They asked me about Big Ben and why the English are so fond of gardening. I asked them where everybody was, which brought a moment’s silence and no real answer.

The authorities had not wanted me to visit the University because of its resemblance to the Marie Celeste. I was later to discover the answer to the question, where has everyone gone? They were all in the fields picking cotton.

Even the massive labour forces held on the state farms are insufficient when it comes to harvest time. So other forced labour is drafted in. Staff and students are brought in from colleges and universities, which are effectively closed for the entire autumn term. An able-bodied university or college student will expect normally to spend two months in the cotton fields. Older schoolchildren will do the same, and even children as young as eight might expect to spend two or three weeks in the fields. Civil servants and even factory workers can also be drafted as the size of the harvest and weather conditions dictate.

Conditions can be appalling. The workers sleep in the fields, or in rough barracks. Sanitation is poor, food consists of a bare gruel, and water is taken straight from irrigation canals. The harvest regularly lasts through into October or early November, when temperatures can drop below freezing. Each farm and each region had its quota to produce in the State five year economic plan, and managers and hokkims were under extreme pressure to fulfil their quota.

Those drafted in for the harvest are not paid, but they are, for the most part, very successfully brainwashed by constant propaganda on television and radio, in newspapers and on banners and posters about harvesting the nation’s “White gold”. It is chilling to hear a bedraggled ten year old in a field talking about their patriotic duty to pick cotton to fund the nation’s independence.

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