Daily archives: October 19, 2005

Hazel Blears made a claim to MPs I know to be false

By Craig Murray writing in the Guardian

The government’s anti-terror measures have already attracted accusations that they propose a form of internment without trial, deportation to countries that use torture, and a vague new crime of “glorifying” terrorism. But they also reveal a disturbing willingness to make use of intelligence material that is simply false.

The bill being rushed through parliament includes the proscription of 15 “terrorist” organisations. One of them is the Islamic Jihad Union. This is claimed to operate in the dictatorial central Asian state of Uzbekistan, until recently a key US ally in the “war on terrorism”. But the statement made last week by Hazel Blears, the Home Office minister, included one seriously misleading explanation as to why this group was being banned, and she relayed one straightforward falsehood.

“I have been assured,” she told MPs, “that the group would cause a threat to British interests overseas … The intelligence on which the home secretary reached his decision was from our own sources, so I hope that that reassures members that the matter has been scrutinised properly.”

“There was an explosion in Uzbekistan that killed nine people who were involved in the construction of portable improvised explosive devices”, she elaborated. “Over the following three days, there was a series of shoot-outs and suicide bombings that were carried out in Tashkent, Bokhara and Uzbekistan, leaving about 25 dead and 35 wounded.”

Ms Blears was trotting out the Uzbek government version of events in March 2004. But this string of alleged suicide bombings does not appear to have been anything of the kind. As Britain’s ambassador, I visited the site of each of the bombings within a few hours – or, in one case, minutes – of the alleged explosion.

The physical evidence on the ground did not coincide with the official explanation. For example, each suicide bomber was alleged to be using explosives equivalent to 2kg of TNT. But nowhere, not even at the site of an alleged car bomb, was there a crater, or even a crack in a paving stone. In one small triangular courtyard area a bomb had allegedly killed six policemen. But windows on all sides, at between 10 and 30 metres from the alleged blast, were not damaged; nor was a tree in the middle of the yard. The body of one of the alleged suicide bombers was unmarked, save for a small burn about the size of a walnut on her stomach.

A full account of my investigations of these bombings is to appear in my forthcoming book: one reason, perhaps, why the Foreign Office will seek to block its publication. There is no more reason to believe this version of events in March 2004 than to believe the Uzbek government’s version of the Andijan massacre in May this year. What is more, as ambassador I sent back the details of my investigation to London, and the Joint Terrorism Assessment Centre (Jtac) agreed with my view that there were serious flaws in the Uzbek government account – agreeing with my view that the US was wrong to accept it. I concluded then, and still believe now, that these events were a series of extrajudicial killings covered by a highly controlled and limited agent-provocateur operation.

Why then is this Uzbek government propaganda now being uncritically relayed to the Commons by Hazel Blears? The false information she relayed to MPs is the assurance that the intelligence on the IJU is from our own sources. There was no intelligence material from UK sources on the above events. The UK has no intelligence assets in central Asia. We are dependent on information given to us by the United States’ CIA and NSA. There was information from the NSA. We had NSA communications intercepts of senior al-Qaida figures asking each other if anyone knew what was happening in Tashkent (no one did). Despite the only intelligence we had indicating plainly that al-Qaida was not involved, Colin Powell immediately went on the record in Washington to support the US’s ally, stating specifically that Uzbekistan was under attack from Islamist militant forces linked to al-Qaida. Almost certainly MI6 and MI5 happily accept this nonsense, as it suits their own agenda. But if they pretend that they have independent information, that is a lie.

I am greatly concerned that ministers are prepared to push a security service agenda so uncritically. I am sad but far from astonished that they are so seemingly cavalier with assurances to troubled MPs. There was little time for debate and no opportunity to vote individually on which organisations should be banned.

I am not, in a practical sense, concerned by the proscription of the Islamic Jihad Union. The evidence that this organisation exists at all is extremely tenuous, and if it does it is almost certainly the fruit of an Uzbek agent-provocateur operation. But I am greatly concerned by the glib repetition of propaganda by British ministers. It was the manipulation of dud intelligence for political purposes that led us into Iraq. And was that not a factor in the present wave of terrorism that we face in London?

‘ Craig Murray was the British ambassador to Uzbekistan between 2002 and 2004

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Scotland’s answer to Walter Wolfgang

By David Lister writing in the Times online

WITH her year-round tan, long blonde hair and designer clothes, Sally Cameron does not look like a threat to national security. But the 34-year-old property developer has joined the ranks of Britain’s most unlikely terrorist suspects after being held for hours for trespassing on a cycle path.

Ms Cameron was being hailed yesterday as Scotland’s answer to Walter Wolfgang, the 82-year-old heckler manhandled out of the Labour Party conference last month. She was arrested under the Terrorism Act for walking along a cycle path in the harbour area of Dundee.

Yesterday, after receiving a letter from the Tayside procurator fiscal’s office informing her that she would not be prosecuted, Ms Cameron said: ‘It is utterly ridiculous that such an inoffensive person as myself should be subject to such heavy-handed treatment.’

She was walking from her office in Dundee to her home in the suburb of Broughty Ferry when she was arrested under new anti-terrorist legislation and held for four hours.

She said: ‘I’ve been walking to work every morning for months and months to keep fit. One day, I was told by a guard on the gate that I couldn’t use the route any more because it was solely a cycle path and he said, if I was caught doing it again, I’d be arrested.

‘The next thing I knew, the harbour master had driven up behind me with a megaphone, saying, ‘You’re trespassing, please turn back’. It was totally ridiculous. I started laughing and kept on walking. Cyclists going past were also laughing.

‘But then two police cars roared up beside me and cut me off, like a scene from Starsky and Hutch, and officers told me I was being arrested under the Terrorism Act. The harbour master was waffling on and (saying that), because of September 11, I would be arrested and charged.’

Ms Cameron, who said that at one stage one of the officers asked her to stop laughing, described the incident as ‘like a scene from the movie Erin Brockovich, with all the dock workers cheering me and telling me to give them hell’. She said: ‘I was told that the cycle path was for cyclists only, as if walkers and not cyclists were the only ones likely to plant bombs. There are no signs anywhere saying there are to be no pedestrians.

‘They took me to the police station and held me for several hours before charging me and releasing me.’

She said that she was particularly galled by the letter from the procurator fiscal’s office, which said that she would not be prosecuted even though ‘the evidence is sufficient to justify bringing you before the court on this criminal charge’.

Keith Berry, the harbour master at Forth Ports Dundee, said yesterday that Ms Cameron had been seen as a ‘security risk’. Speaking about the incident, which took place in May, he said: ‘We contacted the police in regards to this matter because the woman was in a secure area which forbids people walking. It was seen as a security risk. We were following guidelines in requirement with the port security plan set up by the Government.’

A spokesman for Forth Ports said: ‘We will robustly prosecute anyone who breaches these new security measures because they have been introduced by the Government and we are obliged to enforce them.’

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Mothers of dead British soldiers camp out at Downing Street

Rose Gentle and Susan Smith are two mothers whose sons were killed in the war in Iraq. Although they have been refused legal aid by the British government they are pursuing legal action to demand an inquiry as to why Tony Blair took this country into war against Iraq.

They are currently camping outside No 10 for 24 hours to directly confront Tony Blair with their case. The protest is scheduled for 15:00 on Tuesday 18 – through to 15:00 on Wednesday 19 October.

For further information see MFAW

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