Murder in Samarkand: The FCO prepares for legal action 5


The Foreign and Commonwealth Office seem determined to stop me publishing my book. They are threatening four grounds of legal action:

a) Libel

b) Crown Copyright

c) Breach of Confidence

d) Official Secrets Act

The first point is that plainly this is an attempt to suppress the book and prevent publication by scaring me (and the publishers) with the threat of legal action. This will not work, as neither of us scare easily.

Let us then consider each of these proposed legal actions in turn ‘

Libel

I am confident that the book is entirely true, and thus does not libel anybody. The FCO is likely nonetheless to try to run a vexatious libel action by one of its staff named in the book. The book cannot be sold in the UK during such action, and this is the most likely way they will attempt to in effect ban the book by using millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money in an endless court process

Crown Copyright

Following the publication of Christopher Meyer’s book, Jack Straw said that in future the government would actively consider the use of Crown copyright to prevent such further publications. This is a stretching of the copyright law, and the argument goes like this:

When I was in Uzbekistan, I was employed by the Crown, so the intellectual property in anything I learnt belongs to the Crown, just as the copyright of anything created by a Microsoft software designer belongs to Microsoft.

There are three problems in this. First, I don’t think my contract said any of that, while I bet the Microsoft contract does.

The second problem is that they are claiming by book is untrue and inaccurate. They are lying, but that is their claim. If they want to maintain that claim, how can they possibly argues that the Crown has copyright over things which are fictitious and did not happen while I was in their employ? The notion is absurd.

The third problem is much more fundamental. If this applies to me, it would also apply to every other employee of the crown, including not just Christopher Meyer but also, for example, Tony Blair. Now we know that Tony Blair has obtained a huge mortgage on a house based on a guaranteed advance for his memoirs of his time as Prime Minister. Now under the government’s new argument, Blair has sold something that didn’t belong to him at all, but belonged to the Crown.

The FCO will argue that it is for the Crown Prerogative to decide when to exercise Crown Copyright and when to let it go. In other words, they would sue me and not Tony Blair. And who exercises the Crown Prerogative? Why, the Prime Minister, of course.

So let us be clear about this. By delving about in the most remote and arcane backwaters of Britain’s unwritten constitution, the government is seeking to undermine freedom of speech and claim the power arbitrarily to ban books. If this argument were accepted by the courts, the government could ban books under Crown Prerogative without having to give any explanation or reason as to why they decided to ban a ‘Dissident’ book but allow their own propaganda.

It is essential to fight this completely undemocratic development.

Breach of Confidence

The FCO attempted to frame me with false disciplinary allegations, and leaked the details of those allegations to the press. Plainly they had broken the relationship of confidence between us. Furthermore I believe I am revealing illegal action by the government, breaking both international and domestic law by being complicit in torture.

In these circumstances a ‘whistleblower’ is protected from this kind of legal harassment. There is no way that the government would win this before the European Court.

Official Secrets Act

This is, of course, the ultimate attempt to scare us by threatening prison against free speech. The large majority of official documents quoted in this book were released to me under the Data Protection Act. There are no other official documents which have not already been released all over the web. I am confident this is bluster ‘ to ask a jury to convict someone for revealing government malpractice is not sensible, and I would love to see Jack Straw in that witness box.

This is an important fight. We have a government committed to illegal war abroad and an attack across the whole spectrum of civil liberties at home. After banning books comes burning books. If at some stage of the fight they want to send me to prison, I am prepared. We have to show that we will not be cowed, and that the truth cannot be suppressed. Frankly, if the government think they can bury this book, they are even barmier than I thought.

Craig


5 thoughts on “Murder in Samarkand: The FCO prepares for legal action

  • Unity

    Craig:

    Just to clarify the copyright position, any material which constitutes intellectual property and which was produced by you during your time as an FCO employee in the course of your normal work is subject to copyright and, technically, the property of your employer.

    However, should anyone pursue a libel action, the documents the FCO are trying to supress would be subject to disclosure int he discovery process and could enter the public domain during the court proceedings.

    Taken together the libel and copyright arguments are self-defeating.

  • Irie

    This is reminiscent of Turkey's recent attempts to silence Orhan Pamuk, although of course the UK lawyers use cleverer language. I would like to think that as in this case, if Craig did manage to publish his book without government consent, and was subsequently arrested, there would be an international outpouring of support.

    Is it too much to say that the actions of our government since September 11th are not so different from the National Socialist government in Germany following the Reichstag fire in 1933?

  • uzbek-khan

    Craig

    Ordinary people of Uzbekistan still remember you. Time will come and you will be treated as a hero, not in the UK but in Uzbekistan!

  • Keith

    I hope the book is a success. This is one book I won't be ordering from the library – I have ordered and paid for it from Amazon. Craig, you deserve all the support you can get for your brave and determined actions. This government's assault on democratic ideals, free speech, support of regimes using torture and its rush into an illegal war is appalling and dangerous.

  • Sebastian

    Craig, The harrasment that you have experienced at the hands of the British FCO is certainly shocking but not surprising from where I'm standing; having been connected to the even more incredible case of Mr Alan John Davies (imprisoned in Thailand for 17 years as an innocent man) and having seen how the FCO has been complicit in all manner of dirty tricks, sabotage and criminal actions over almost all of those years in their attempts to ensure he has been kept where he is; even though they have known unequivocally and even admitted publicly that he is innocent and deserving of no punishment. The reason?: A British diplomat, through indictable criminal actions, was responsible for his being falsely convicted and sentenced to death, and because when the FCO discovered this malfeasance, they started the process to cover up what had been done. That cover-up included additional criminal actions perpetrated by other diplomats under orders from the FCO. Later John discovered documentary evidence of these crimes and naturally made a fuss, but, just like you, he now knows too much about too many thugs in protected high places at the FCO and they are desperate to keep him quiet.

    Of course that will never happen and the two books that have already been written about what has been done to him [The Kingdom And I… and … In The name Of The King] will see to it that they and their dirty tricks are exposed.

    More details can be had at http://www.sebastianwilliams.bravehost.com/index….

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