Monthly Archives: November 2007


Harry Barnes’ Critique

Certainly one of the most interesting and thoughtful critiques of Murder in Samarkand has been posted by Harry Barnes on his blog. For those who don’t know, Harry is a recently retired, long-serving Labour MP. He represents strongly the origins of that party as an organisation dedicated to improving the lot of working people, both in the UK and worldwide. His perspective casts new light across several aspects of the book, including this extract:

In particular, I found Craig’s description of Claire Short’s visit to Tashkent when she went to Chair a conference of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development to be highly revealing.

Claire did a fine job in standing up for human rights against the Uzbek regime. As soon as she returned home she resigned her post as Secretary of State of Overseas Development over the Government’s involvement in the invasion of Iraq.

I had been amongst those who criticized Claire for not resigning earlier when Robin Cook went. Yet what she stood out for in Uzbekistan was of great importance and is a justification in itself for the delayed resignation. Her period at Overseas Development was also one of the limited avenues of achievement of the Blair Government.

http://threescoreyearsandten.blogspot.com/2007/11/undiplomatic-diplomat.html

A comment on a couple of Harry’s points. yes, of course I oppose political violence by state and other terrorists. I am not a closet al-Qaida supporter, or even al-Qaida denier.

Secondly, I am indeed no socialist. But I am only “the strongest possible advocate of privatisation” in the context of Uzbekistan, where state ownership of pretty well everything is a device used ruthlessly by the elite to exploit an enslaved population. In a developed economy like ours, I believe that natural monopolies should be in public hands, as should essential services like health and education.

Direct observation has convinced me that public services are best delivered by public organisations. The so-called efficiencies of privatised provision of public services are a myth, with any beneficial effect more than outweighed by the removal of public resources as private profit, and the skimping and shoddiness on the service designed to increase those profits.

In developing economies, I am completely opposed, for example, to IFI pressure to privatise and charge for water and other essential human needs. But I think purely commerial activity is best conducted by individuals and companies in market conditions, and there should be plenty of space for it..

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Scare Early for Christmas

Don’t look over here! Look over there!

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith made today the most cynical – and least convincing – move yet to exploit “terror” politically in the UK. On the day that New Labour hit a twenty year low in the opinion polls and Harriet Harman blamed Gordon Brown’s office for her dodgy donations, we now have the first headline on the television news as a government announcement of the threat of a “Dirty Bomb” over Christmas.

I cannot say this loudly enough. I have checked with my own contacts and there is NO specific or new intelligence indicating a threat of a terrorist dirty bomb – or any other terrorist threat – this Christmas. Doubtless that will not stop Frank “Goebbels” Gardner appearing any minute now nobly to warn us of the grave danger we face.

Interestingly, even my friends in the Security Services – who normally are pretty happy to see the threat exaggerated, thus adding to their ever increasing budgets and career prospects – this time are sickened by the cynicism of the timing of this “Christmas Warning”.

Incidentally, there is no track record of an attack on “Christmas” and no actual reason to believe that a terrorist attack is more likely to occur at Christmas than any other time of year. The notion is based on a rather simplistic notion of the “Clash of civilisations”.

I have a lingering personal faith which won’t quite die, irrespective of the continuing evidence on the Dawkins side of the equation that the religious, given any power, are evil and dangerous. George Bush did no harm when he was just a parasitic alcoholic, then he discovered Christ and look what happened. Which just goes to show that alcohol is a much more benificent social force than religion.

Blair has revealed he didn’t tell us about his religious faith while in office in case people thought he was a “nutter”. If he thinks we didn’t notice he was a nutter, he is more deluded than I thought – plainly religion hasn’t helped his thought processes. Finally we have the vile authorities of the Sudan. I am of course outraged by their action against a British teacher, but compared to the appalling actions of that bunch of theocratic arseholes against their own people, it is minor indeed.

I had occasion to read General Gordon’s original diaries in the course of researching my master’s thesis. I found it an extraordinary thrill to hold in my hand the paper he had held and decipher his increasingly shaky handwriting. Gordon was a religous fanatic in the Blair mode; portraits show a remarkable similarity of “look” to Blair in the fixated gaze of the eyes. Gordon had a similar approach to Blair, from the same motivations, to bringing the benefits of civilisation to what he viewed as benighted peoples. But unlike Blair, Gordon was a man of incredible personal courage who paid the price for his beliefs. Blair just condemned countless (literally) thousands of other people to death, while shamelessly devoting his own life to raking in the cash.

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A Chance to Fight

Am here in Accra and have picked up the vital news from Bob Marshall-Andrew’s office, that Jahongir Sidikov’s deportation has been postponed so his case can be reviewed. This is great news, but it gives us no more than a chance to fight. It makes further representations now still more urgent and important. This is particularly so in view of the Home Office’s initial reply to Bob Marshall-Andrews:

“The problem I have is that the correspondence you enclose from a Ms Catherine Brown appears to have no connection with Mr Sidikov. I know you will understand that Home Office records on individuals have to be treated as confidential and cannot be disclosed to third parties. As you are not Mr Sidikov’s MP and as Ms Brown has no connection with his case, you will appreciate that I am therefore prevented from discussing the details of this case with you. Please be assured, however, that the information you have submitted will be placed on file and will be fully considered by the Border and Immigration Agency before a final decision is made on Mr Sidikov’s case. In more general terms, I confirm that it is Home Office policy to remove political dissidents to Uzbekistan, if the independent judiciary has deemed an asylum claim to have no basis.”

I think this must rank with the most astonishing phrases ever uttered by a British government:

I confirm that it is Home Office policy to remove political dissidents to Uzbekistan

The temporary suspension of Sidikov’s deportation does not affect that policy. It is a policy which is vicious in the extreme as we know perfectly well what happens to political dissidents in Uzbekistan. I think the sentence above is in itself indicative of the hole in the soul of New Labour, and sufficient reason never to even consider voting for them again.

That policy needs to be challenged. So does the “fast track” system by which Sidikov went from hearing to appeal to deportation in just a fortnight. We were told the “fast track” was for prima facie spurious cases from “safe” countries like Belgium. How on earth could a dissident from the worst country in the world to send a dissident get fast-tracked?

It was the fast track procedure that directly caused the failure of Sidikov’s appeal. His solicitor had under a week’s notice of the date, and witnesses – including myself, who was in Africa – could not make it for the hearing at that notice. The judge then refused to accept written evidence from several witnesses living abroad, on the grounds she could not be certain of the authenticity of the statements. She did not give time to establish their authenticity, just refused to accept them. She suggested they were forged because they had similar grammatical errors such as incorrect use of the definite and indefinite article. That was because they were all written by Uzbeks who do not have the article – my Uzbek partner always makes the same mistake in English. I know for certain that the statements were authentic. The judge’s behaviour was a disgrace, and let me be plain I do have contempt of her court, deep contempt. But she was merely indicative of the general mindset of the “Fast-track”, a disgraceful device by which the government seeks to curry favour with the tabloids by increasing deportation numbers.

Boosting New Labour with focus groups infinitely outweighs the torture to death of the odd dissident.

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Thanks to Bob Marshall Andrews

A number of MPs have now made representations about Jahongir Sidikov. I have in particular been copied this excellent letter by Bob Marshall-Andrews, queryiing our apparent new policy of deporting to Uzbekistan:

27 November 2007

Mr Liam Byrne MP

Minister of State (Borders and Immigration)

Home Office

2 Marsham Street

LONDON SW1P 4DF

Dear Liam

Re.: Johongir Sidikov Home Office ref. no.: S2185191

I am writing to you about this young man, an Uzbekistan dissident, who is due to be deported tomorrow. He is presently at Harmondsworth Detention Centre. He is no connection with my constituency and, indeed, I have seen no papers relating to the withdrawal of his asylum status. I have been contacted by a friend of mine at Cambridge University who has also provided me with an article written by Craig Murray and I attach a copy for your immediate convenience.

As I have said, I am not aware of the full facts but I am very concerned that we should be deporting dissidents to Uzbekistan, a country which is a notorious reputation for human rights abuse and torture. I had always believed that it was policy not to deport to that country.

In these circumstances I would be very grateful if you would grant a short stay of execution in order that I may acquaint myself with the background with a view to possibly making further representations if that appear to be merited. On a wider level, I would be grateful if you could let me know if it is now government policy to deport political dissidents to Uzbekistan and whether any bi-lateral agreements have been made concerning their treatment.

The urgency is self-apparent and I would be very grateful for an early response.

Yours sincerely

Bob Marshall-Andrews QC MP

(Dictated by RMA and signed in his absence

As far as I can tell, the Home Office have yet to reply to any of the many representations they have received. They seem determined to go ahead with this deportation. This is bringing increasing international condemnation, inluding this report from Radio Free Europe:

Political Activist Fears Extradition To Uzbekistan

November 27, 2007 (RFE/RL) — Human rights activists are concerned that Britain may deport opposition activist Jahongir Sidikov to Uzbekistan on November 28.

Sidikov and Uzbek rights activists told RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service that he would face immediate arrest, torture, and possible death if deported.

The concern is not unfounded — the UN Committee Against Torture said last week that torture and ill-treatment are “widespread” in Uzbekistan.

Speaking by phone today from a detention center in London, Sidikov expressed fear for his life. “According to the latest news that I have got, they are going to send me back to Uzbekistan on Wednesday. I know that right after my arrival in Uzbekistan I’ll be arrested. I’m afraid that I’ll be persecuted and tortured. I’m really worried for my life.”

Sidikov is a member of Erk, a banned Uzbek opposition party. He came to London to study at the City University in 1999 and then sought unsuccessfully to gain political asylum in Britain.

Full report here:

http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2007/11/CD96D98E-B944-4542-89C4-3508A18BCB8F.html

The deportation is scheduled for tomorrow evening, so there is still time for further representations – though no sign that the Home Office is paying any attention to them. I keep saying this, but I just find it absolutely unbelievable that the UK is starting to deport dissidents back to Uzbekistan.

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Airport Round-Up

As I get set to dash off to Ghana again, a round-up of several issues.

Firstly, and most importantly, Wednesday 28 November has now been set as the date for Jahongir Sidikov’s deportation. The Home Office have received an impressive number of representations, including a united one from effectively all of Uzbekistan’s opposition and human rights groups. We now need a further push to try to save this man’s life.

While numerous individual bloggers have been involved in whipping up support they include, with the odd honourable exception, very few high profile ones. So far as I can see, neither Liberal Conspiracy nor any of its contributors – even though I emailed the site an urgent appeal for help. So maybe Liberal Conspiracy is just a New Labour sock puppet exercise after all.

When I read blogs abut Uzbekistan written by travellers I am sometimes moved to fury. Few people are more interested in architecture and history than I, but I don’t understand how it can blind people to everything else.

So congratulations are due to Apropos, for his excellently perceptive observations on his travel blog. Very well written too:

However, for an ordinary Uzbekistani, it would seem that life’s aspirations are much more modest with very few avenues of opportunity. Naturally, any discussion relating to politics is extremely dangerous for the average Uzbekistani, and although it is not impossible to find people who “will talk,” the average person seems frightened and oppressed. While ethnic Uzbeks (comprising about 80% of the population) are markedly warm, kind, family-oriented people, ordinary life in Uzbekistan seems a dull shade of gray, with little evidence of any living culture, intellectualism, arts, or creativity. Rather, the Uzbekistani people seem frightened and in some sense, dumbed-down, as if they are the end product of a society which has long hammered-down “the nail that sticks out.” And it is not uncommon to find Uzbeks — particularly young men — staring off into infinity with a stupefied, wall-eyed, bovine stare that seems to signify something like spiritual defeat.

One assumes that this descends from the governing system, which instead of facilitating growth and progress, appears designed to make life impossible. Everything — from the poor banking system, the absurdly denominated currency (time spent “counting money” is a significant activity in virtually every transaction), poorly maintained highways, the routine police checks everywhere, the internet is crawls where it exists, censorship is pervasive, the food shops are pitifully understocked in some places, economic opportunity is extremely limited, and the dense, inevitable bureaucracy overhangs virtually every part of public life — whether by necessity or design, all of this serves to make daily life more difficult and the disempowers the people.

http://www.x3n.org/2007/11/uzbekistan-shades-of-oppression.html

The post includes links at the bottom to three Youtube excerpts from an Australian Broadcasting Corporation documentary on Uzbekistan (and a bit about me). If anybody has the slightest doubt about the urgency of saving Jahongir I strongly recommend you to watch these, with the warning that some of the images are truly horrific.

Brian Barder’s blog is always worth a look and I highly commend his very sober analysis of the government’s current unpopularity:

There remain puzzling questions about why Gordon Brown and his colleagues persist in their attachment to policies which become more obviously indefensible by the day: the most obvious examples being the renewal of Trident, ID cards (especially including their accompanying national identity register) and the further extension of the already grossly excessive 28-day maximum time in which terrorist suspects may be imprisoned without even being charged, still less tried or convicted of any specified offence. The varying justifications advanced for these discredited policies have repeatedly been exposed as invalid. Refusal to drop them (if necessary by easy stages, to minimise humiliation) looks increasingly like personal obstinacy verging on the perverse.

http://www.barder.com/ephems/730

Full piece well worth reading. I only disagree with his last few sentences, which I think reflect a residual Labour loyalty and really don’t logically connect with the rest of the piece. I rather feel that we have just passed an “Emperor’s New Clothes” point after which people will no longer readily believe the government about anything, particularly the hype about the War on Terror.

Both Newsnight and Sunday Edition deny that the cancellation of my appearances was anything to do with blacklisting. Here is the email from Sunday Edition:

Dear Craig

Thank you for your email. I have been out of the office for several days and have only just received this, otherwise I would have replied sooner.

Firstly, thank you again for having agreed to come on the show, and apologies once more having cancelled at the last minute. This happens quite a lot on this type of programme ?” in fact we have even dropped guests as senior cabinet ministers in the past. In answer to your question, it was not a ‘blacklisting’, but a change in the emphasis of our debate. We decided to focus more on the domestic counter-terror proposals, rather than foreign aspects of the ‘war on terror’ and the other issues I had mentioned on the phone (Pakistan, Brown’s foreign policy speech). With your lengthy experience as a diplomat, we had envisaged asking you to comment mainly on these foreign policy issues ?” and then also comment on the domestic aspects. As our focus had changed, we instead had two guests to speak more on domestic side ?” Jan Berry of the Police Federation; and Patrick Mercer, former Shadow Homeland Security Secretary (who incidentally have differing views on the proposed counter terror legislation). We also included questions on prisons on which Jan was qualified to speak.

The ‘war on terror’ is a subject we should and will discuss in future on our current affairs programmes. We aim to represent a range of viewpoints when we cover any topic. The Sunday Edition has come to the end of its run, but we would be happy to have you on a future current affairs programme on a suitable discussion.

All the best

James

I may not have been formally blacklisted, but a media that believes that just the Conservative Party and the Police cover a reasonable spectrum of opinion for a discussion on “Homealnd security” is a media under the severest of intellectual constraint. I saw newspaper reports that “Sunday Edition” has been axed as too boring. It seems to me just the same pap as on the other channels.

Today the Oxford Union hosts a debate featuring David Irving and Nick Griffin. I really don’t have terrifically strong feelings. I don’t think the Oxford Union should have invited them, but I think the Oxford Union have the right to invite them if they so choose. I would never invite Nick Griffin to speak anywhere, but I think he has a right to speak where he has his meetings. I think it was very wrong to put Irving in jail for being a deluded nutter. Equally I think it was extremely wrong of us to jail a young Muslim girl, the “Lyrical terrorist” for thinking and writing obnoxious thoughts and bad poetry.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article2633764.ece

An idea, however wicked, should bever be illegal. If you persecute an idea you feed it. John Stuart Mill, as virtually always, was right. If we start jailing people for their thoughts, half the country should be put away for what flashes across their minds whenever Tony Blair appears on TV.

I spoke at the Oxford Union last week, in a debate on the War on Terror. I spoke against the motion “This house believes that in the war on terror the best defence is a good offense”. I spoke with Jeremy Greenstock and Ned Lamont, against Julian Lewis, Frank Gaffney and J D Hayworth. British readers might like to google the last two. We defeated the motion overwhelmingly – by about four to one. I believe that is indicative of the current intellectual trend. Annoyingly I haven’t seen any media reports of this major debate, and the Oxford Union appear not even to have put a report on their website – too busy taking sherry with fascists, apparently.

Finally, for this round-up, I had the honour to be the opening speaker at People and Planet’s Shared Planet conference in Sheffield. It gave me a big boost – over seven hundred highly commited student activists, in an organisation that really gets the connections between environmentalism, poverty, hydrocarbon dependency, corporate greed, human rights and war.

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A Low Point

Jahongir Sidikov is still in detention at Heathrow, having offered passive resistance to the attempt to deport him today. Next time they will use staff authorised and equipped to use force.

I am deeply depressed. All yesterday I was working on trying to save him from being returned to the horrors of the Karimov regime’s treatment of dissidents, and it was like living inside a nightmare. Together with an Uzbek friend, we got in an emergency application to the European Court of Human Rights for an Article 39 stay on deportation as Jahongir’s life was in danger. This involved my friend filling and faxing numerous forms. I spoke with the legal officers filing the report to the Court, and with the National Council for Assisting Deportees who told me that a temporary stay was “always…automatically” granted so the case could be investigated. By the early evening Jahongir had already been taken to the airport to be deported, and still no result. Finally, the news came from Strasbourg – the appeal for a delay had been rejected by the assistant registrar of the Court. I have no idea why.

I am still in a genuine state of shock and disbelief that we should start shipping asylum seekers back to Uzbekistan, of all places. It is as though the government have gone into official denial of what kind of place Uzbekistan is. I am also astonished that I have been met with complete indifference from everybody – officials, MPs and journalists. I can’t get anybody to take an interest.

I telephoned the British Embassy in Tashkent and the Ambassador, Iain Kelly, refused to speak to me. So both a yes man and a coward, then. In 2003 Iain Kelly was deputy to Matthew Kydd, Head of “Whitehall Liasion Department”, the link between the FCO and MI6. Kelly’s boss Kydd told me that it had been decided between Richard Dearlove and Jack Straw as a matter of policy that we should use intelligence from torture in the context of the War on Terror, specifically from Uzbekistan, and that this intelligence was “operationally useful”. (Murder in Samarkand pp 160-2)

Iain Kelly is therefore not just passively but actively implicated in the policy of cooperation with the torture of Uzbek dissidents by the Uzbek intelligence services. He will also have been directly implicated in the use of intelligence obtained by torture through extraordinary rendition, in Uzbekistan and elsewhere.

It is therefore essential that the Uzbek human rights community are aware of this and do not trust the British Embassy with any information or cooperation in future.

The choice of Kelly as the new British Ambassador. together with the decision to end EU sanctions against the regime and to start handing over dissidents like Sidikov to the Uzbek regime, seems to indicate a return to a closer relationship with Karimov.

After Kelly refused to speak with me, I received an email from a junior official in the FCO asking me to route my enquiry through her. She confirmed that the FCO was aware of the deportation of Jahongir Sidikov and had liased with the Home Office on it. I asked if there were any arrangements in place to track what happened to him once he arrived back in Tashkent. Evidently there were not, but she promised to speak to the Embassy about it. I followed up with this email:

Sarah,

We spoke. I should be most grateful if you could ensure that, should Mr Sidikov be deported as planned today, the Embassy monitors what happens to him and maintains an interest in his welfare. As I am sure you are aware, there is a strong argument that any deportation of Mr Sidikov is in contravention of Artilce 3 of the UN Convention Against Torture, to which the UK is a state party. Have Legal Advisers been consulted?

I should also be grateful if you could inform me whether diplomatic assurances have been sought from the government of Uzbekistan over treatment of those refouled, and if so with what result, and what weight you place upon any assurances from the government of Uzbekistan?

This is the first time, to my knowledge, that we have deported an asylum seeker to Uzbekistan. Is that correct?

I shall remain regularly in touch for updates on Mr Sidikov’s situation. If this man is tortured or killed because the UK government sent him back to the custody of what is widely acknowledged to be one of the worst regimes on Earth, it will not be able to be kept secret.

Best Wishes,

Craig

Again, I restate my disbelief that we are doing this. How on Earth can we consider deporting dissidents back to Uzbekistan. Do Ministers not know what happens in that country, or do they just not care? And why can’t I get any politician, journalist or official even vaguely interested? Even on the internet, no prominent bloggers have shown any interest. I don’t know that I have ever felt so frustrated and alone – but my problems are nothing compared to how Jahongir must be feeling. To sit in a condemned cell awaiting a relatively quick death must be awful. But to await the kind of things the Uzbek security services will do to you – and to be awaiting them in England – is unthinkable.

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Ghanaian Justice

Two British teenagers, Yasemin Vatansever and Yatunde Diya, have been found guilty in Ghana of drug smuggling and face sentencing with a possible maximum of three years in prison. There is no reason to believe justice has not been done in this case, and I hope that we will not be swamped with hypocritical sympathy. If my position surprises you, it is a good time to refer you again to my long article on the subject here:

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2007/07/i_am_aware_that.html

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Save Jahongir Sidikov

I have just spoken to Jahongir who is expecting to be deported this evening, so we still have a few hours to try to stop this. An article 39 application to the European Court of Human Rights is being worked on, but not safe at this short notice. Meantime please contact your MP, any media contacts you have, anyone who might help. Both Tom Porteous of Human Rights Watch and myself worked the media yesterday, but to little apparent effect.

One of the many gross aspects of this case is that Jahongir’s case has been “fast tracked” and gone through hearing and appeal to deportation in just a fortnight. His solicitor had less than a week to prepare his appeal – and unfortunately I was in Africa all that week and could not appear as a witness. The judge dismissed requests for a postponement on the grounds she could see no valid reason why witnesses could not get to court. She also dismissed a letter from Uzbek opposition leader Mohammed Salih as not genuine – even though I know for sure it was genuine. This case points up the farce of our asylum system and the cruelty of the “Fast Track” process.

These are Jahongir’s Home Office references:

Home Office ref. ?” S2185191

Port ref. ?” BGT/188094

DMS ref. ?” 67823

Jahongir is currently in Harmondsworth Detention Centre.

Jahongir’s deportation is, beyond any possible dispute, illegal under international law. The UK is a State Party to the UN Convention Against Torture, which states at Article 3:

Article 3

1. No State Party shall expel, return (“refouler”) or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.

2. For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.

it is quite impossible to argue, by the standard given, that it is admissible to return Jahongir to Uzbekistan. As a nation we appear to have abandoned all pretence at legality.

http://www.ohchr.org/english/law/cat.htm

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Britain Institutes Death Penalty

For the first time, Britain will tomorrow deport a failed asylum seeker back to Uzbekistan. Jahongir Sidikov, a member of the banned main opposition party Erk, is currently held in Harmondswoth Detention Centre. His ticket has already been purchased for deportation tomorrow.

Previously, as a matter of policy, this country did not deport political activists to Uzbekistan because they will face severe torture and probable death. The totalitarian Uzbek government has since become even more repressive, with widespread imprisonment, torture and extra-judicial killing of dissidents. The immigration officers who escort Jahongir onto that plane are in effect implementing capital punishment. This is a deeply, deeply shameful action by New Labour.

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Usmanov Admits Relationship with Gafur Rakhimov

There is another profile of Alisher Usmanov in the Guardian today which gives him an easy ride. But the Guardian also publish on the web the full text of their email interview, which is much more revealing:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/russia/article/0,,2212432,00.html

Given that these email answers will almost certainly have been provided in close consultation with Schillings and Finsbury, they are not very convincing in many areas. The Guardian’s excellent David Conn has also done some good digging.

The Guardian pretty effectively kill off Schillings’ lie that Gorbachev was responsible for Usmanov’s pardon. And there is strong proof of my statement that Karimov fixed it for him – The Guardian show that Usmanov himself was on record as telling David Owen so nine years ago. This fits ill with Usmanov’s denial now of having any relationship with Karimov.

Perhaps most damning is Usmanov’s admission of his relationship with Gafur Rakhimov. I am constantly aware that it is difficult for me to get the context of this over to those not versed in Uzbekistan affairs. But his latest statement on this is the equivalent of saying “I only knew Mr Capone because he was a neighbour of my parents.” Again, reading the interview carefully, this fits ill with Usmanov’s previous admissions to meeting with Rakhimov every time he goes to Tashkent, even if “Only” for an hour.

My sources are well-placed Uzbeks, but it is very heartening that Usmanov in his propaganda interviews has confirmed the facts that I was told. His Sunday Times interview confirmed his key relationship since student times with Jastrzebski, Putin’s long time chef de cabinet. We now have proof from the Guardian that it was indeed Karimov who fixed his pardon, and of his relationship with Rakhimov. It is also worth noting that my sources never claimed the rape allegation resulted in a conviction – the Guardian asked the wrong question here, apparently misled by other, Russian, sources.

The Guardian still miss a couple of points – for example, Usmanov had just bought Kommersant when Safronov mysteriously fell from the window.

What a pity that Usmanov now says he is too busy to sue. Otherwise the truth could be established.

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Problem or Solution?

For all those fools of the David Aaronovitch and Nick Cohen variety who argue that things in Iraq would fall apart if we left, so we have to stay to secure the oil – sorry, keep the peace – here is the definitive answer.

http://www.independent.ie/breaking-news/world-news/middle-east/basra-attacks-down-90-since-british-troops-left-1221511.html

It is obvious to anyone not blinded by neo-con ideology, or greed, that UK and US continued military presence is the main provoker of violence – both in Iraq and elsewhere, including at home. Now the British have left Basra and occupy nothing but the airport, and have entirely reduced their mission to pretending the US is not alone in Iraq, Basra has gone peaceful.

Meantime I see that sleazy fat neo-con slob Aaronovitch – someone should buy that man a picture for his attic – has been chosen by the BBC to “interview” Blair. It is yet another sign of the disgusting propaganda vehicle that the BBC has become, that it allows a leading neo-con pro-war, pro-Zionist and anti-Muslim propagandist to conduct what ought to have been an important interview by a real interviewer. Where is Paxman when you need him?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2007/nov/17/tonyblair.politicsandthemedia

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Blacklisted?

The last five times I have been invited on to television current affairs programmes, all within the last four weeks, my appearance has then been cancelled shortly before filming (except in the case of my comments on Newsnight’s piece on the Uzbek cotton industry, where I was called in and filmed, and then edited out).

This has not only been happening on the BBC. For example I received this:

Dear Mr Murray,

ITV Sunday Edition – interview request

I hope you don’t mind me approaching you out of the blue. I am writing to invite you onto our show, The Sunday Edition on ITV, this Sunday 18 November.

To give you some more background on the show, The Sunday Edition is ITV’s weekly news and review show, presented by journalists Andrew Rawnsley and Andrea Catherwood. We would like to ask you on to talk about aspects of international affairs: picking up from Gordon Brown’s Guildhall speech, what can and should we expect from his foreign policy?; the situation in Pakistan, Iran; and also the current domestic counter-terrorism measures. We would be happy to discuss other areas you wished to cover.

In terms of logistics, the programme is recorded live at 9.25am this Sunday, 4 November, at the ITN studios in Gray’s Inn Road, central London. We would of course of provide transport to and from the studio.

I do hope this is of interest. If you need any more information about the programme, or this request, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Kind regards,

James Reid

Followed by this:

Dear Craig,

Many thanks for agreeing to come on the show this Sunday. Just to confirm the details, we will need to get you there for 8.45, to come on the programme at 9.25. Bekeh, our production co-ordinator will confirm the travel details with you when this is booked.

In the meantime, if you need any more information, please do not hesitate to let me know.

All the best

James

Then suddenly this:

Dear Craig,

I hope all is well. I have been unable to get you on the phone this afternoon to let you know we had a change of plan for Sunday regarding the set-up for the programme, and are not going ahead with our planned interview. I wanted to say thank you very much for having agreed to come on, and for taking the time to talk to me on the phone. I apologies for this very late notice, and I hope this does not put you out.

Once again, may thanks for your time on this.

Best regards

James

Here is another example:

Dear Craig,

I’m contacting you from the BBC’s Question Time programme where we are currently about to start a new season of programmes.

I’m sure you are familiar with the format but just in case, each week five panellists take part in the programme – usually three politicians and two non-politicians. These other two panellists might be authors, artists, entrepreneurs, actors, pop stars or journalists. The idea is that they are non-political figures with an interest in current affairs – recent participants have included soul singer Beverley Knight, former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey and entrepreneur Martha Lane-Fox.

We were wondering whether you would be interested and available at some point in the run to take part as a member of our panel? We have a number of dates coming up and it would be good to see if you are around. For example, we are in Leeds on the 18th October, Oxford on the 25th, Swansea on 1st November, London on the 8th November and Buxton on the 15th November.

I hope this might be something that is of interest to you. Please let me know if I can give you any more information.

Regards,

Tom Gillett

Followed by:

Hi Craig,

Just getting in touch as I’m aware that we’d pencilled you in for this week’s programme.

I’m sorry to have to do this but I don’t think that we’re going to be able to go ahead with the booking this week. It just feels that this week is going to be all about Westminster politics and very little foreign policy which I think would be a waste of your experience. It would be better to book you in on a week where international matters are more prevalent so could you let me know your availability over the next few weeks and hopefully we can slot you in somewhere else.

Again, sorry not to be able to go ahead this week but hopefully we can re-arrange for a convenient date.

Very best,

Tom

No reply has been forthcoming to my emails on potential other dates.

Now obviously, it is not unheard of for current affairs programmes to invite people and then to cancel them. But it is very unusual – contrary to popular myth, television people are not notably more rude than normal. It is indeed so unusual that for it to happen five times in quick succession reaches the point where an underlying cause is definitely more likely than chance. It is worth noting that on all five occasions I did not approach the show; the show approached me. My contribution was discussed and a date agreed.

For Newsnight, I commented that the British government was not telling the truth in denying that they knew of the use of forced child labour in the Uzbek cotton industry, as I had reported it officially four years ago and written a book on the subject which they heavily vetted. On Sunday Edition this Sunday I was intending to query the veracity of the government’s claim that there are 2,000 Islamic terrorists in the UK, and consequently the need for yet more draconian anti-liberty legislation to “protect” us. I was also intending to point out the contradiction between Brown’s professed support for “Internationalism”, and his slavish devotion to an aggressively unilateral US foreign policy.

These are neither unusual nor extreme views, but you almost never hear them on television, and you won’t now be hearing them from me. I wonder why?

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Encouragement of Terror, and Double standards

Under our sweeping anti-terror legislation, to encourage terror is illegal, and we have adopted extra-territoriality – encouraging terrorism while you are abroad is an offence in the UK. Here we published some extremely important points about it made in the House of Commons debate on the legislation:

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2005/10/mps_debate_the.html

Like all our recent anti-terror legislation, it is in fact designed to be used purely against Muslims. That is a bold claim. Let me demonstrate it is true in practice. Here Brian Kilmeade of Fox News calls for bombings in Iran. By the end of the clip, his meaning is unequivocal.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mH3BTaWrQ3I&eurl=http://www.prisonplanet.com/articles/november2007/101107Bombings.htm

Now if any Muslim were to appear on TV, calling for terrorist bombings, he would undoubtedly be banned from entering the UK, and if he did enter would be arrested. But calling for the terrorist killing of Muslims is perfectly OK. None of these things is gong to happen to Mr Kilmeade.

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Mr Usmanov’s profession

An Uzbek expat internet forum recently had a popular discussion on whether Alisher Usmanov would be a good President of Uzbekistan – this is not academic, as Usmanov is certainly the preferred candidate of President Karimov if the oligarchs will not accept his daughter, and would have the backing of Putin. Thanks to Libertad for publishing some translations. Here are some samples:

1. Right after Alisher Usmanov becomes a president, Tashkent will host a big “party” of criminals from around the globe. The streets of Tashkent will be decorated with big billboards that say “Mafia forever” or “Congratulations from brotherhood”

2. TV will be showing only mafia movies

3. There will be great changes in law enforcement bodies’ administration systems. The chiefs will be replaced by criminals

4. There will be significant changes to the Criminal Code of Uzbekistan. Advisors of president will be given a right to pardon criminals without any investigation

5. Ruslan Chagaev will become an absolute champion in boxing in the world, as everyone will refuse meeting with him in the ring

6. Rustam Kasymjanov will become world’s absolute master in chess

7. Arsenal will have new uniform with national Uzbek symbols (like cotton) on it

8. And there will be a match between Arsenal and Pakhtakor

9. New taxes will be introduced – to help the brotherhood

10. Usmanov will begin privatizing the government institutions

11. And in six months he will become the worlds top billionaire, and Uzbeks, of course, will be proud of being ruled by the world’s richest person

12. And in six moths Alisher Usmanov [just like Karimov] will be teaching farmers how to plant cotton, and builders how to put a brick, etc.

Or this:

1. Uzbek Anthem will be changed to a music from a Russian movie “Brigada” [famous Russian movie about gangsters], but there will be a huge debate, because some of the Alisher Usmanov’s team members also like the music from the movie “Godfather”. However, a patriotic Alisher Usmanov will support “Brigada” voters.

2. Our current slogan “Uzbekistan is a country with promising future” will be changed to a “Forget about it” ?” with New Jersey accent /forgetta abaaut it/.

3. National sport Kurash will be replaced by “Cards”, and introduced in education. The first graders play “Durak” [card game] and so on, the level of difficulty will raise based on the grade and in grade 10 schools kids will be prepared to a Poker championship in Las-Vegas (in a couple of years, actually, kids will be so good that world championships will be held in Tashkent)

Now you may not get all the cultural references, but what does this tell you about what Uzbek people know of Mr Usmanov’s profession?

http://uzbekistan.neweurasia.net/2007/11/09/would-alisher-usmanov-be-a-good-president-of-uzbekistan/

Forum.arbuz.com, where the discussion was held, hosts more than a few Karimov regime trolls, so there are a vocal minority of defenders of Usmanov here. Given that Karimov is arguably the world’s most vicious dictator, the argument that he must be OK as he is a friend of President Karimov perhaps won’t cut ice in many circles. Most of the discussion is of course in Uzbek or Russian.

http://forum.arbuz.com/showthread.php?t=41588

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Angels Weep

I have no words – every time I try to produce some, I want to throw up instead. Please come up with some comments for me.

Big bucks for Blair on lucrative China trip

Former British prime minister Tony Blair was paid 500,000 dollars for a three-hour trip to a luxury Chinese housing estate, state press reported Thursday and questioned whether he was worth it.

Some newspapers criticised the whirlwind visit, sponsored by a real estate company, as a show of extravagance and said Blair, who resigned earlier this year, produced little more than cliches.

Blair gave a speech during Tuesday’s visit to Dongguan in China’s southern province of Guangdong and stopped by a luxury villa compound developed by his trip’s sponsor, Guangda Group.

The real estate company also offered him one of the houses worth 38 million yuan (five million dollars), the Guangzhou Daily said.

The newspaper did not say whether he accepted the villa, while noting that the cash payment would have been 330,000 dollars after tax.

http://uk.news.yahoo.com/afp/20071108/ten-china-britain-politics-blair-a56114e_1.html

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Vicarious Electoral Success

It is narcissistic and a bad habit, but I google myself from time to time. In so doing I feel I have come to know some other Craig Murrays – the ice hockey player, the film producer, the aviation photographer and the naturalist. But the one that I have been most worried about has been in the shit for some time.

Craig Murray, in charge of the sewerage of Las Gallinas, California, is responsible for the turds of some very exclusive people, who seem to take a most extraordinary interest in the fate of their by-products. Is the system functioning with enough capacity? Can it cope with flood? Is it solar-powered? There is never a google where I don’t find my namesake gallantly defending his handling of the effluent of the affluent. I have no idea who is in charge of my liquid waste here in Hammersmith, but in Las Gallinas Craig Murray is a public figure.

So it is with great delight that I tell you that Craig has been triumphantly re-elected by the Las Gallinas Valley sanitary district, after a bitter and terribly tight three horse race in which he topped the poll with 36% of the vote. I am going to open a bottle of bubbly and toast his success, and then I shall toast again as I dispose of the waste.

http://www.marinij.com/ci_7390556?source=rss

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Ian Blair Must Go

The elected London Assembly has passed a motion of no confidence in Sir Ian Blair. If he had any honour (which being New Labour he doesn’t) he would go now. I watched much of his appearance before the Assembly. The result was no foregone conclusion, but his arrogance and rudeness swayed the Assembly against him. He effectively taunted them that they had no power to remove him. I do hope a transcript of this amazing meeting will be available.

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500 Million Vanishing White Elephant

Today saw the launch of the design for London’s 2012 Olympic main stadium, which has risen in cost estimate from £260 million to £500 million in the last nine months – and they haven’t started building yet.

I enjoy the Olympics, and they are obviously a major boost to the pharmaceutical industry. But I am perplexed by the concept of this stadium, which is to be part disposable. Most of it – 55,000 out of 80,000 seats – will be thrown away after the Games.

I can’t understand this. After the main tier is removed, what will remain is a stadium for just 25,000 people. What is the use for a stadium of that size? It is too small for top tier football, or even West Ham, and London already has a little used athletics stadium like that. It will be too small to be of use for a future World Cup bid.

It appears as expensive to build a disposable stadium as a permanent one. In fact, with eventually just 25,000 seats, that’s a staggering £20,000 per seat!! Think about that. Is this Gordon’s Millennium Dome?

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Autobiography of an Uzbek Political prisoner

Muhammadsolish Abutov’s brief memoir is harrowing but well worth reading through:

Every day after work Bechkanov and I dragged water, and watered the flowers around the unit and cleaned the toilet. We worked together on the crusher and there I witnessed yet another example of barbarism against Muslims in the history of mankind. In the work zone there was a toilet with a pit underneath that you could climb to the bottom of by steps. Usually prisoners bring the shit out of their in buckets when it rises up. I saw how from the work zone headquarters they brought four prisoners, leaders of Hizb-ut-Tahrir. And in broad daylight, right in the work zone, several activists headed by the brigade leader of the work zone Shakir lowered them into the pit, right on the shit. It was a terrible sight. The crusher was about 100 metres from the toilet ?” I saw how they lowered them into the pit, and how they lifted them up, all stinking and in shit, wet from head to toe. They were taken to the washing area, washed, dressed and put in the punishment cells.

Later, when I asked Khafizuli about this he said that the head of the work zone had demanded that he write Karimov a letter and he’d refused. For that those four got beatings and were then put into the toilet pit. But when you’d only just arrived at the colony, everybody wrote in quarantine after all, didn’t they? , I asked. He answered that yes, he’d written, but that now they wanted him to do it again, and this time he’d refused.

. Bekchanov and I dragged the crushed stone in barrows from the crusher to the concrete mixer, 200 metres. Bekchanov was around 50, a simple man. He spoke his Khoresm dialect of the Uzbek language, and not in the Tashkent form which is regarded as a sign of being cultured. He did not, as I noted, make his prayers and was not a religious man. And he was afraid of the brigade leaders. Just on seeing them, he would try to work faster. He was stronger than I was, but when those brigade leaders abused or beat him, he was silent. I on the contrary tried to also abuse them or yell.

Bekchanov is the brother of Uzbek opposition leader Muhammad Salih. It is worth noting the scale of Karimov’s labour camps – over 5,000 in one alone. Also the continued presence in the gulags of some of Karimov’s internal party opponents from Soviet days. Abutov’s final camp is the notorious Jaslik, where Avazov and Alimov were boiled to death.

Not sure how the formatting and footnotes will survive, but full text here.

(more…)

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