Daily archives: January 3, 2006

On the death of the Official Secrets Act

It has come as a surprise to some that I am not currently a guest of Her Majesty. It is plainly a disappointment to others, particularly the trolls who have been gleefully predicting on Lenin’s Tomb that the agents of the state will come and get us.

We have published what were, undoubtedly, classified British government documents. Under the notorious Official Secrets Act that is an offence, and everyone connected with it is plainly guilty. There is no public interest defence.

But there are problems with the Official Secrets Act. Despite New Labour attempts to roll them back, British criminal trials still involve juries, and they are reluctant to convict in OSA trials, where they often sympathise with the motives of the defendant. Clive Ponting was acquitted after leaking that the Belgrano was heading home when we sank it. The jury acquitted him, against the clear direction of the judge. And that was in the context of the Falklands War, which the British public supported. What chance of a conviction in the context of the Iraq war, which the British public oppose?

Katharine Gunn released details of GCHQ’s involvement with the NSA in bugging UN delegations in New York, and the government withdrew the charges against her rather than face a trial.

There is still time, but to date we haven’t even been questioned about the torture telegrams. This is sensible – no British jury is going to convict someone for campaigning against government complicity in torture, in support of George Bush. The publicity surrounding a show trial is not something the government would relish.

Which is why it is confusing that the government have decided to prosecute Messrs Keogh and O’Connor for their alleged involvement in the leaking of the memo about George Bush’s proposal to bomb al-Jazeera TV.

So why has that prosecution been brought? There are two vital factors.

Firstly, the UK government has little to fear from publicity. It reveals Bush as violent and unbalanced, but we knew that already. From a No 10 point of view, it shows Blair in a good light, talking Bush out of one of his madder schemes. It is evidence that Blair is not just Bush’s bitch. This is a message No 10 are keen to get across, so publicity? No problem.

Secondly, the memo was not successfully leaked. If there was indeed an effort to leak it, it was made by people operating in the wrong century. The document wound up at the Daily Mirror, who were too cowardly to publish and tamely gave it back to the government. The days of heroic editors and publishers in the deadwood press are long gone. The mainstream media are completely intimidated by government – especially, let it be said, the BBC.

By contrast, the torture telegrams were featured on over 4,000 blogs worldwide within 72 hours.

Over the al-Jazeera memo the government looks to be doing the right thing in thwarting bush, and the government looks strong and commanding in suppressing the memo. By contrast, on the torture telegrams, the government has been caught using material from the World’s most hideous torture chambers. Jack Straw and Tony Blair have been caught lying about the fact that they do this. And they have been shown to be completely impotent in their efforts to suppress the truth when faced with blogger revolt and modern technology.

They can still try to prosecute me if they want, but WE ARE THE PEOPLE!!

And we cannot be suppressed.


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Her Majesty’s Secret Service?

As official denials grow ever more opaque, evidence which points to Britain’s involvement in torture grows ever more transparent.

By Torcuil Crichton in The Herald

LIKE the nightmare instruments themselves, the screws of proof are being slowly tightened around Britain’s complicity in the international kidnapping, interrogation and torture of terrorist suspects.

A series of allegations and an increasing pattern of reports of British involvement in the trade of ‘extraordinary rendition’ is cornering the government in narrower and narrower denials.


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Repression of Uzbekistan’s Secular Opposition Reaches New Levels

Nadira Khidoyatova, coordinator of the Sunshine Coalition, which unites one opposition party and several human-rights NGOs working inside Uzbekistan,was detained by Uzbek police on December 20, 2005 at

Tashkent airport. Khidoyatova, 37, was not presented with an arrest warrant, and state prosecutors did not present any charges against her until she had spent her first night in prison.

She has been accused of variety of economic crimes,such as tax evasion, expropriation of property and money laundering. If she is found guilty of these crimes, under Uzbek law she would likely serve a

prison sentence of five to six years.

Khidoyatova has been transferred to a pre-trial detention prison in Tashkent, where she remains at present.

Uzbek opposition and human rights groups consider Khidoyatova to be a political prisoner. Prior to her arrest, she spent two months in Moscow trying to raise awareness in Russian political circles about the increase in repression on the part of the Uzbek regime. Her sister, Nigora Khidoyatova, is leader of the Free Peasants Party, a key part of the Sunshine Coalition.

This is the second time that Nadira Khidoyatova has been arrested for her political activity. In 1995 she was arrested and imprisoned on similar economic charges after she had helped the former Uzbek ambassador to the United States, Babur Malikov, escape the country to go into exile and into opposition. At that time Khidoyatova was four months pregnant; after her arrest a compulsory abortion was performed on her.

Khidoyatova is a mother of daughter aged thirteen and a son aged three.

Her arrest follows the arrest of the leader of the Sunshine Coalition, Sanjar Umarov, on October 23, 2005, also for alleged economic crimes. According to his lawyer, who has been granted access to him only four times since his arrest, Umarov is being tortured and injected with psychotropic drugs against his will.

Another member of the Sunshine Coalition,Arif Aydin,a Turkish citizen and Nigora Khidoyatova’s husband,was expelled from Uzbekistan to Kazakhstan in early December. Two weeks after his departure he was shot by unidentified men in southern Kazakhstan, and he died in the hospital two days later.

The attacks on the leaders of the Sunshine Coalition are just part of the Uzbek government’s recent campaign of repression against opposition parties, NGOs and independent media outlets. Facing official pressure, BBC shut down its office in Tashkent this summer, and in December, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty was closed down by authorities. Activities of other NGOs including the Soros Foundation and Internews have been suspended as well.

Please write to us to find out more about Khidoyatova’s case. We would appreciate you help in publicising this case.


“May 13 campaign for Justice and Democracy in Uzbekistan”

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