Monthly Archives: July 2006


Massacres and Wirecutters

I just don’t know what to say. The bodies of so many children bring tears, not words.

Even if you believed the crazy Bush and Blair logic, I cannot understand how anyone can look at these tiny corpses and say “it is worth it to eradicate Islamic fundamentalism”. If you do that, you could watch the corpses from the gas chambers and say “its worth it to elminate the World Jewish conspiracy.” This is crazed and aburd. We must reject the logic of hate.

Even last night and this morning, the UK and US are still working full out at the UN to head off any resolution calling for an urgent unconditional ceasefire. Instead we are pushing a plan which involves the ethnic cleansing of Southern Lebanon to create an empty zone – and the international community is expected to enforce the ethnic cleansing.

President Chirac’s proposal has much more justice – that there should be an international force deployed equally both sides of the border. We have made plain at the UN that we will veto such a proposal. Blair is still pushing Bush’s view that the US has to have latitude to pursue the military option while diplomacy goes on, until the world is obliged to accept ethnic cleansing.

And if it needed any more underlining, where was Tony Blair? At a meeting addressing Rupert Murdoch’s chief executives from News International. My last musings suggested that anyone who stayed in the Labour Party was a pariah. That was not strong enough.

I don’t know if the bomb that killed 37 – and rising – children was carried on a plane that landed in the UK. Quite likely. I see that Prestwick being considered insecure, they are now coming through USAF Mildenhall.

I hope that everyone will come to the national demo from the Stop the War Movement on 5 August. Once that is over, perhaps the next day, let us organise a reclamation, however temporary, of part of Mildenhall from the Americans.

This is going to involve, at least, getting beaten up and arrested. But how do you weigh that against 37 child corpses? I am up for it. Wire cutters, anyone?

Craig

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Workers from Uzbekistan sold one of their group to slave-masters to earn their own way home

“This story may be instructive for anyone who feels the events in Murder in Samarkand are far-fetched.”

Craig

From Ferghana.Ru (19.07.2006)

In early spring, four young men from the Samarkand region decided to travel to Russia to earn their families’ living. They had heard somewhere that there were special coaches running to Russia, raised the sum they were told would suffice to pay their fare, and turned up at the bus stop.

“What we had raised was not enough after all,” said Azamat, one of them. “Coach driver said we owed him and would settle the debt in Moscow. We could only agree, and the bus started rolling.”

“When we were travelling across Kazakhstan, the coach was stopped by local gangs on several occasions. The guys just entered and commandeered whatever took their fancy,” Azamat said.

“We could do nothing, not even protest because they could just kick the protester out of the coach, batter him, or even murder him, and leave the body right there in the steppes,” Azamat’s brother Hairullo added.

The road to Moscow took several days and nights. The coach finally made it and this was where the four young Uzbeks discovered what a real nightmare was. The driver beckoned some acquaintance of his, pointed at the four young men, and explained that he owed them and that they were for sale.

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Iraq war families win hearing: Legality of invasion to be considered in court

From The Herald (27.07.06)

THE families of four young soldiers killed in Iraq were yesterday granted permission to challenge the government’s refusal to hold a public inquiry into why the UK took part in the war.

But senior appeal court judges who overturned a previous ruling blocking the right to a judicial review over the legality of the conflict also warned it was unlikely that the move “has a real prospect of success”.

The judges added that there were “formidable hurdles in the way of the applicants”, who include Rose Gentle, the Glasgow housewife-turned-campaigner who lost her 19-year-old son Gordon in a roadside bomb attack in Basra in 2004. Lawyers for the government claim it would be “an unwarranted shift of power” for the courts to make pronouncements on the right of an elected government to go to war.

Despite this, Sir Anthony Clarke, the Master of the Rolls, Lord Justice Judge and Lord Justice Dyson, ruled that it was “at least arguable that the question of whether the invasion was lawful ‘ or reasonably thought to be lawful ‘ as a matter of international law is worthy of investigation.”

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The Crown’s copyright con

By Becky Hogge in OpenDemocacry

As the UK government abuses copyright law to stifle free speech and obstruct freedom of information, the case of Craig Murray reveals how the impulse of power to control dissent is crushing democratic rights anew.

It is nearly two decades since the British government tried to ban Spycatcher, and you would expect them to have learned their lesson. After throwing ?2 million in legal expenses after the biography of former MI5 operative Peter Wright, her majesty’s government was forced to admit defeat in October 1988, leaving ministers red-faced and Wright seriously in the black, thanks to the free publicity afforded his book by his repeated trips to courts across the globe. Eighteen years on, it’s the turn of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to have a go. But this time they have a new weapon in their armoury – the vagaries of the British copyright system.

The book in question is Murder in Samarkand, the memoirs of former ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray. In it, Murray exposes the human rights abuses of Islam Karimov’s regime and details how, during his stay in Tashkent, he came to realise that the “War on Terror”, in which Uzbekistan played ally to the US and UK, was essentially a hypocrisy. The book charts Murray’s confrontation with his superiors at the FCO, his allegations of intelligence obtained under torture, the FCO’s rebuttal of his fears, and their alleged attempts to drive him out of office.

Murray held off publishing Murder in Samarkand for many months as he exchanged letters with the FCO’s Richard Stagg on his intention to publish the book. Although Murray made cuts from the original text, the FCO still threatened legal action were he to publish, on the grounds that the book remained defamatory, inappropriate, misleading and a breach of trust. Stagg also warned that a case against the memoirs might be pursued under copyright law.

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Murder in Samarkand: The Curmudgeon Review

It is probably your patriotic duty not to buy it.

By Philip Challinor in The Curmudgeon

It begins with an expression of amazement by a member of the British embassy staff in Uzbekistan. The source of his amazement is the fact that the British ambassador to Uzbekistan has any interest in what might be happening in that part of Uzbekistan which lies outside the gates of his residence. Craig Murray’s predecessors, and presumably successors, displayed no such interest.

As Murray discovered to his cost, this was not incompetence or negligence on their part. Uzbekistan, under the dissident-boiling regime of Islam Karimov, was a designated vital ally in the War Against the Abstract Noun and therefore an automatic recipient of the Bush administration’s seal of approval as a burgeoning democracy. Accordingly, it was the British ambassador’s patriotic duty to sit on his hands, make appropriate noises at social functions, and congratulate the regime on its nonexistent reforms while Karimov’s goons raped as many people and pulled out as many fingernails as they dashed well pleased.

Although a promising diplomat with experience in Nigeria, Ghana and Poland, Murray was unpatriotic enough to allow his personal distaste for torture and totalitarianism to get in the way of his professional judgement. The Foreign Office offered him the gentleman’s way out: a chance to resign rather than be kicked out on charges so incompetently fabricated they were an insult to the craft of trumping-up. Murray compares it to the good old-fashioned Britishness of being given a revolver and expected to do the decent thing; instead of which “I picked it up and started shooting at the bastards”. Truly, our values are not what they once were.

Starting with his witnessing of a dissident “trial”, which was largely a platform for the judge to make bad jokes about Muslims before passing sentence, Murray recounts his professional and personal adventures and vicissitudes from his arrival in Tashkent to his formal suspension from duty and resignation from the diplomatic service. It is clear that he made thoroughly unscrupulous use of his ambassadorial status not only to promote British commercial and cultural interests in Uzbekistan, but also to investigate human rights abuses and even, in one instance, to encourage asylum seekers to apply to the United Kingdom for accommodation. It is heartening to report that, for a change, they were turned down quickly enough to spare the taxpayer both the expense of deporting them and the tedium of reading about them in the Daily Mail.

Naturally, the Foreign Office did all it could to rein in Murray’s excesses. Their efforts to keep him from making a fool of himself led naturally to the ruin of his health, both physical and mental; and naturally, having nothing to hide, the Government has censored his book, delayed its publication and done its best to suppress the correspondence (released under the Freedom of Information Act) which substantiates Murray’s claims. Fortunately, these documents have been mirrored elsewhere, so it is still possible to gain some idea of the Government’s honesty, innocence and pristine attachment to principle.

Like many enemies of truth and decency, Murray exerts a certain dangerous charm. Despite the often harrowing subject matter, his book is always readable, never boring and sometimes hilarious. It is probably your patriotic duty not to buy it; and you certainly will not sleep better if you believe it, even though it does include a tip on how best to drink vodka with the KGB. Doubtless this is why the Government has done so much to protect us from it.

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US missile flights pressure grows

“We shouldn’t be allowing bombs through our airports to fan this horrendous conflict. This underlines the monumental hypocrisy of the US and Britain. We have been preaching to Iran about arming Hezbollah fighters. And all the while we have been arming the Israelis…”

The Guardian (Thursday July 27)

The chorus of discontent is growing over the US use of British airports as staging posts for transporting weapons to Israel.

Aviation chiefs are investigating whether two chartered flights carrying bunker-busting bombs were properly authorised to stopover at Glasgow Prestwick.

Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett has insisted she is “not happy” and will lodge a formal complaint if the hazardous material protocol failure is proved – raising speculation of a rift in the Transatlantic ‘special relationship’. She has already contacted counterpart Condoleezza Rice to voice her displeasure, while the White House has sought to play the issue down as a “paperwork question”.

But calls for a blanket ban on the US using UK territory when transporting arms to Israel were increasing in volume, with critics blasting the Government’s “monumental hypocrisy” in asking Hezbollah to give up their weapons.

The embarrassing controversy is threatening to overshadow Tony Blair’s arrival in Washington for talks with President George Bush concerning the deteriorating situation in Lebanon.

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Michael Moore has written to Mrs Beckett requesting an “urgent review” of US flights. “In light of Israel’s disproportionate military attacks against civilians and the civilian infrastructure in Lebanon and Gaza, in contravention of international law, the Foreign Secretary is right to be angered that the US is supplying Israel with high tech weaponry via the UK,” he said.

A former British diplomat, who quit as ambassador to Uzbekistan after alleging human rights abuses, said the UK was losing “all credibility with the Arab world”. Craig Murray said: “Whether procedures were followed properly is not the issue. We shouldn’t be allowing bombs through our airports to fan this horrendous conflict. This underlines the monumental hypocrisy of the US and Britain. We have been preaching to Iran about arming Hezbollah fighters. And all the while we have been arming the Israelis, while resisting calls for an immediate ceasefire.”

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which is responsible for UK policing of international rules governing hazardous material, said that it expected to decide by the end of the day whether there had been a breach.

Flights such as that by the two chartered Airbus A310 cargo planes – which were carrying GBU28 laser-guided bombs – usually require “specific exemptions” from hazardous material rules, according to a spokesman. However, the CAA said that it would not be deciding the issue immediately, and only “may” reach a conclusion – when Mr Blair’s visit gets under way.

It is understood that any formal complaint by Britain would be pursued through “diplomatic channels” – either in a letter from Mrs Beckett to Ms Rice or with representations from the UK’s ambassador.

Also, for a look at the wider geo-political implications of the war see Washington risks a wider conflict from the BBC

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Lebanon Ceasefire Now Protest to take place in London on Friday

The London CEASEFIRE NOW protest against the war in Lebanon will be in Whitehall on Friday 28 July, 5pm to 7pm, when a letter to Tony Blair insisting that he demand an immediate ceasefire will be handed into 10 Downing Street.

Add your name to the Tony Blair letter here on the Stop the War website at www.stopwar.org.uk

.UNCONDITIONAL CEASEFIRE NOW

.END THE ATTACKS ON LEBANON & GAZA

.END BLAIR’S SUPPORT FOR BUSH’S WARS

London Protest Friday 28 July 5pm to 7pm

Downing Street, Whitehall, SW1

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UK airport used to fly bombs to Israel

By Thomas Harding Defence Correspondent and Anil Dawar

Daily Telegraph (26/07/2006)

Britain has been used as a staging post for major shipments of bunker-busting bombs from America to Israel. The Israelis want the 5,000lb smart bombs to attack the bunkers being used by Hizbollah leaders in Lebanon.

Two chartered Airbus A310 cargo planes filled with GBU 28 laser-guided bombs landed at Prestwick airport, near Glasgow, for refuelling and crew rests after flying across the Atlantic at the weekend, defence sources confirmed. The airport has also been used by the CIA for rendition flights carrying terrorist suspects.

The Government’s agreement to the bomb flights was criticised last night by the Liberal Democrats.

“In light of disproportionate military attacks, the Government should take steps to suspend all arms transfers to Israel, whether directly from or through the UK,” said Michael Moore, the party’s foreign affairs spokesman.

President George W Bush appeared uncomfortable when he was asked if he regarded the simultaneous American provision of military support and humanitarian aid to Israel as contradictory. He said that America was honouring commitments to Israel made before the current crisis flared up.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are looking at our approach to these flights.”

It has been reported that efforts to crush Hizbollah have been hindered by a lack of bombs capable of penetrating their command bunkers.

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Craig Murray on Lebanon

I have just watched on television sixty bodies being buried in a mass grave in Tyre, victims of Israeli bombing. At the same time I saw the odious Kim Howells, Foreign Office minister, arguing that a ceasefire would not solve the problem.

British diplomats at the UK Mission to the United Nations in New York – people I know personally – are putting massive effort into working against a ceasefire. They have the ultimate weapon that they and the US can veto any resolution at the Security Council, but are bending their backs into heading the subject off the agenda.

I hope they are proud of their succesful efforts. For every hour they prevent a ceasefire, on average two more Lebanese children are dying. Israel claims now to have killed 100 Hizbollah fightres. Even if true, that means they are killing two children to every fighter.

Blair and Bush take an obscene joy in the killing. It is as though they have to work through their obsession with the concept of “The War on Terror” to its crazed conclusion of eternal conflict. Faced with increasing public scepticism at the hideous quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan, I am sorry to say that I believe they both will be secretly hoping for more terrorist incidents in London and New York. By provoking, goading and humiliating the Arab world beyond reason, they can provoke a reaction and rage at us “I told you so”. Then race down the next spiral on the road to mutual destruction in their self-fulfilling warwithout end.

On Tuesday the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are holding an “Open Day” for potential recruits. How large a salary to you need to work to delay a ceasefire and secure the deaths of children? Is there really much fulfilment left in a career as a messenger for a poodle state?

Britain had a certain amount of respect in the Middle East for a consistent policy on Palestine that was broadly fair. Who remembers David Mellor as a junior Tory minister laying into an Israeli soldier for brutality against Palestinians? In his footsteps comes Kim Howells, offering to keep the way clear for the Israeli to get a better shot. We now remember the Security Council Resolution which calls for Hizbollah to disarm, but have forgotten all the other SCRs on the Middle East, most notably the Security Council’s demand that Israel returns to its 1967 borders. Our policy now is to slavishly follow the Bush line that Israel may unilaterally define its own borders.

We condemn Syria and Iran for supplying weapons to Hizbollah, while 100 times their weight of US munitions have fallen on Lebanon, and more US bombs are now being urgently dispatched to kill more children, with UK support. Britain has broken the longstanding EU concensus on Palestine and removed any counterweight to the US. Whenever you think Blair can bring us no lower in international morality, he does it. It is no longer possible for anyone to justify continued membership of the Labour Party. This government is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of innocents through its support for Bush’s imperialist wars. Anyone who stays in the Labour Party should be shunned as a moral pariah.

Craig

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Our man in trouble

REVIEWED BY MAX HASTINGS in the The Sunday Times

It is a horrible story, and rings horribly true. Murray’s testimony forms another piece in the Iraq-WMD-Bush-war-on-terror-Afghanistan jigsaw of shame. It helps explain the moral bankruptcy to which the Blair government has reduced itself.

MURDER IN SAMARKAND: A British Ambassador’s Controversial Defiance of Tyranny in the War on Terror

by Craig Murray

Craig Murray is a former British ambassador to the Central Asian republic of Uzbekistan. To get the flavour of his astonishing career there from 2002-04, consider some of the headings under his name in this book’s index: ‘accusations against; bugging suspicions; sacking; Tashkent, asked to leave; topless bathers; visas for sex allegations; marriage, end of’. Lest anyone still fears this is a humdrum diplomatic memoir, here is Murray’ s account of his first meeting with a teenage belly dancer in a Tashkent niterie: ‘I astonished her by saying that I wanted her to give up the club and be my mistress. I explained that I could not marry her, as I was married, but I would keep her. I gave her my card and urged her to phone me.’

Phew. If this was Foreign Office life in the 21st century, candidates would be breaking down doors to join the party. Only it is not, of course. Murray, a kilted philanderer of heroic recklessness, proved an embarrassment to his masters from the day of his appointment, and ended up parting brass rags with them in a welter of mental breakdowns, publicity, divorce and mutual recriminations that he recounts with masochistic frankness.

‘So much for your dolly-bird secretary,’ he records his wife remarking, in a characteristic marital conversation after a less-than-successful embassy dinner. ‘Even if you aren’t screwing her, everybody thinks you are, and that suits you and your bloody ego!’

The pity of all this soap-opera stuff is that it cripples Murray’s purpose in writing his book: to expose the ghastly conduct of the Uzbek dictatorship and Anglo-American collusion with it. From the day Murray arrived in Tashkent in 2002, aged 43, he was appalled to discover that the regime of President Islam Karimov subsisted on a diet of mass murder, torture and slavery. He not only reported in detail to London, he also began to make speeches about human-rights abuse. His outspoken behaviour earned applause from the western media, oppressed Uzbeks and a few diplomatic colleagues, together with fury from the American ambassador and the Foreign Office.

George Bush and Tony Blair were preparing to invade Iraq. The Uzbek government was among their few Asian supporters. Washington was profoundly grateful to Karimov for granting the Americans basing rights in his country, as well as supporting Bush’s idiotic ‘war on terror’, which provided useful cover for Karimov’s persecution of dissidents.

American politicians and diplomats justified cash handouts to Karimov by asserting that Uzbekistan was moving towards democracy; that its human-rights record was improving. Murray encountered daily proof that this view was a travesty. The title of his book refers to an episode when, with his Foreign Office superior, he visited a prominent dissident. Within hours of their departure the man’s grandson was murdered, almost certainly by government agents. Murray was certain that this was retribution for meeting the British.

Yet the FCO refused to make a fuss. Pressure on Murray from Whitehall mounted, as he became passionately critical of the relationship between Whitehall secret services and the Uzbeks, who routinely tortured people to death to gain information. At one point, Murray attended a meeting in London at which a senior Foreign Office lawyer sought to soothe the ambassador, assuring him that there was no legal barrier to the British government’s use of evidence gained by torture in its campaign against terrorism.

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Whitehall dug for dirt on rebel envoy

By Jack Grimston in the Sunday Times

A ROGUE diplomat has posted evidence on his website of what he says was an ‘extraordinary’ campaign by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to trawl for incriminating evidence about his private life.

The internal FCO documents posted by Craig Murray, who was sacked as British ambassador to Uzbekistan in 2004, include references to him attending a strip club, and allegations that he kept a flat for unspecified ‘entertainment’ purposes.

The papers also include a summary of passages that Murray agreed to remove from a new memoir. Among them are alleged indiscretions by his US counterpart in Tashkent, the Uzbek capital. Murray decided last week to take down some of the documents after government lawyers threatened to sue him for breach of crown copyright.

The former diplomat, 47, was recalled to London in 2003 for ‘medical reasons’ before being sacked. He is now making a film about his experiences. Murray believes officials were trying to gather evidence about his private life to stop him speaking out about the poor human rights record of Islam Karimov, the Uzbek president. ‘I wanted to publish the documentation to corroborate my story, especially as the FCO is claiming the story is untrue,’ he said.

The documents have angered not only Murray but the anti-war Labour MP Andrew MacKinlay. One, which is heavily blacked out, contains a passing reference to MacKinlay: ‘We also know that Craig Murray has tried to contact Andrew MacKinlay MP.’

Both Murray and MacKinlay said this weekend they had ‘no idea’ how the FCO could have known this, except by bugging. ‘I am frightened and concerned,’ said MacKinlay. ‘It is menacing and an affront to the democratic process that they should try to find out who has been trying to contact an MP.’

Murray was posted to Uzbekistan in 2002. He soon made himself unpopular with his hosts ‘ as well as with the Americans and with the FCO ‘ by being outspoken on human rights. Karimov was seen as a key ally in the war on terror, particularly for operations in Afghanistan, and he was taking draconian steps against anyone suspected of Islamist links.

One of Murray’s claims was that a dissident died as a result of being boiled by his torturers. The documents on the website include a series of angry exchanges with Murray’s FCO masters.

After Murray had sent a draft speech to London for checking, Charles Hill, an FCO official, reproached him for what he called the ‘soapbox tone of the peroration’. In reply Murray noted acidly that one official had called torture by boiling water ‘horrid’ and added: ‘I presume you think he is being a bit strong.’

The passages deleted from the book, Murder in Samarkand, at the request of the FCO, include a reported conversation with John Herbst, Murray’s American counterpart. Herbst and Murray discussed human rights in Uzbekistan and dangers from Islamic militants.

Murray said: ‘NGOs (non-governmental organisations) estimate there are some 7,000 prisoners of conscience,’ to which Herbst replied: ‘Yes, but most of those are Muslims,’ to which Murray responded ‘I’m sorry?’ Herbst corrected himself, saying: ‘I mean Muslim extremists. Most of those prisoners are Muslim extremists.’

Murray said he had not included the comments in the book because they were probably a slip of the tongue ‘ albeit, he added, probably ‘a Freudian slip’, reflecting the American view that the Uzbek regime was justified in locking up suspected militants.

In the same talk, Herbst mused to Murray that if fundamentalists came to power there would be an end to ‘watching the pretty Uzbek girls go by in T-shirts and skirts’.

Some of the memos report tittle-tattle, including a claim that Murray visited a strip club in Warsaw. Murray said this weekend: ‘I went to a strip club in Poland on a stag night once.’

Murray said he deplored the FCO’s digging into his private life rather than taking seriously his human rights arguments. One memo described how, after a dinner in Tashkent, ‘Craig, in the company of a young female fixer, went off in search of a jazz club’.

Murray said: ‘The evening he (the official) is referring to is the evening that we were at the home of a dissident whose grandson was murdered while we were dining. Me going for a drink afterwards rates a mention, but the murder of our host’s grandson doesn’t.’

The FCO said Murray’s book was a ‘betrayal of trust’, adding: ‘Some of its contents are misleading and incorrect.’

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Dimming the beacon of freedom

From ACLU

GENEVA ‘ The American Civil Liberties Union and the U.S. Human Rights Network hosted a panel of people who have been victimized by the U.S. government’s failure to uphold civil and political rights. On Monday, the U.N. Human Rights Committee (HRC) is scheduled to review the United States’ compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a major international human rights treaty ratified by the United State in 1992.

The ACLU report, Dimming the Beacon of Freedom: U.S. Violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, documents the United States record on human rights in five areas: national security, women’s rights, racial justice, immigrants rights and religious freedom.

‘What I am seeking is an acknowledgement that the CIA is responsible for what happened to me, an explanation as to why this happened, and an apology,’ said Khaled El Masri, a victim of extraordinary rendition who spoke on the Voices of Victims panel. ‘It is my hope that the Human Rights Committee will hold the U.S. government accountable for the abuse I have suffered.’

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The death of David Kelly is back in the news

From The Scotsman

MP says files into Kelly death have been wiped

AN MP conducting an investigation into the death of Dr David Kelly last night claimed his computer files have been wiped.

Norman Baker, Lewes MP, said he has evidence to prove Dr Kelly did not die as a result of suicide. The Liberal Democrat said he had told police he believes computer files at his Lewes constituency office have been remotely wiped.

The MP told the BBC: “What my investigations to date have demonstrated is that there are significant medical doubts from professional medical people about the alleged cause of death.

“Indeed there are a number of specialist medical experts who tell me that it is clinically impossible for Dr David Kelly to have died the way that was described.

“I am suggesting the explanation for suicide simply doesn’t add up.”

Dr Kelly was the Ministry of Defence scientist whose conversations with a BBC journalist led to reports that the government “sexed up” the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. In July 2003 he was found dead with his wrists slashed.

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Article 3 returns to the US

Following the Supreme court ruling against Bush, the core of the Geneva Conventions has been reasserted in the US legal system. ACLU comments on the moves that have rendered Attorney General Gonzales somewhat ‘quaint and obsolete’.

From the American Civil Liberties Union

Washington, DC – After more than four years of lawlessness, the Defense Department took a big first step toward complying with federal law, by stating that it will comply with Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions when holding detainees. However, just hours after the announcement of the new Pentagon policy, a top Justice Department lawyer urged Congress to ‘ratify’ the military commissions that the Supreme Court invalidated two weeks ago.

‘The Pentagon’s decision is wholly appropriate, in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, and long overdue,” said ACLU Director Anthony Romero. However, at the same time that the Defense Department is showing signs of heading in the direction of restoring the rule of law, the Justice Department is urging Congress to abandon it.

The new Pentagon policy reversed a prior Bush Administration claim that detainees were not protected by Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. In policies developed in early 2002 by President Bush, Attorney General Gonzales and top Defense Department and Justice Department officials ‘ over the objections of then-Secretary of State Colin Powell ‘ the Administration took the position that individuals held at Guant’namo Bay and many other detainees were not entitled to the basic legal protections outlined in the Geneva Conventions. The July 7, 2006 memorandum from Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England reversed the earlier policy.

The Pentagon memorandum comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that ruled the military commissions established by President Bush to try detainees at Guant’namo Bay are illegal. Congress has started a series of hearings, including three hearings this week, to decide how to try these detainees. Twenty retired generals and admirals, along with prominent senators such as Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, and Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have stated that the court-martial system should be the working model. But at the first hearing on the subject this morning in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Acting Assistant General for the Office of Legal Counsel Steven Bradbury urged Congress to codify the military commissions that the Supreme Court had found to be illegal.

‘It’s time for the government to stop trying to weasel out of obeying the Supreme Court and federal law. The Supreme Court made clear that the government could start putting people on trial at Guantanamo immediately if it follows court-martial procedures. We have the best military justice procedures in the world, but the Justice Department is telling Congress to use a broken system instead of the best one.’

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Terror suspects face possible abuse, court told

Its not only bankers!

Mr Fitzgerald said that the US promises of fair treatment could not be depended upon. “The court should not rely on assurances of that sort,” he said.

From The Guardian

Two British terror suspects being held for extradition to the US could face human rights violations if deported, the high court was told today. Babar Ahmad and Haroon Aswat would face “a real risk of fundamental injustice and discriminatory treatment” if they were sent to the US under the controversial 2003 Extradition Act, says their lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald QC.

The act allows criminal suspects to be deported from the UK to the US if American investigators can present a prima facie case against them, but a planned reciprocal arrangement has been blocked by the US Congress.

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Italy defense official denies involvement in CIA rendition of Egyptian cleric

From The Jurist

The government of Italy was not involved in and did not know in advance of the CIA’s alleged extraordinary rendition of an Egyptian cleric, an Italian defense official told legislators Tuesday. The official, Giovanni Lorenzo Forceri, told Italian Senate committees investigating the alleged kidnapping that Italy has never “accepted or practiced” such techniques of fighting terrorism and that its Military Intelligence and Security Service (SISMI) learned about the kidnapping only after it had occurred in 2003. The cleric, Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, was allegedly taken from a Milan street and then flown to Egypt, where he was tortured. Silvio Berlusconi, then Italy’s prime minister, called the alleged kidnapping a violation of Italy’s sovereignty, and Forceri said Tuesday that current Prime Minister Romano Prodi supports the investigation.

Last Wednesday, police arrested two Italian intelligence officers, including a senior official, suspected of collaborating with CIA operatives in the alleged rendition. Arrest warrants have been issued for 26 Americans, most of them CIA agents, said to have been involved in the abduction. The Italian justice department has said it would not seek their extradition, but they may be prosecuted in absentia.

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“We need another Dickens”

New Labour are not as stupid as they seem. I have now had a chance to take legal advice, and that advice is as follows. To defend this case would cost the price of a London house. I don’t have a house, in London or anywhere else. I am therefore obliged to give in to force majeure and remove some of the documents from my own site. This reeking government is therefore able to mask its stink on this particular miniscule corner of the internet.

Here is another piece of legal advice I received. Copyright cases cover one instance of publication in one place. Anyone else who has published any government documents that might be Crown Copyright, or not, (and I believe there are hundreds of thousands of documents on the web on which the government could, by the argument in Mr Buttrill’s letter, claim copyright), is an individual case and can wait to hear from Mr Buttrill.

Force Majeure wields a two-edged sword.

Craig

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Foreign Office legal action “unlikely to succeed”

From the Guardian: Former ambassador posts censored passages from memoir on website

The government is threatening to sue former ambassador Craig Murray for breach of copyright if he does not remove from his website intelligence material that was censored out of his newly published memoirs.

Mr Murray has posted full texts of all passages the Foreign Office ordered deleted from the book version of Murder in Samarkand, the former Tashkent ambassador’s account of alleged British complicity in torture by the despotic Uzbekistan regime. His book contains links to the website.

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