The Alex Salmond Trial and Censorship 175

I am just off to the High Court to check out physical arrangements for access on Monday, and was inspired to send the above email, which I add as an update.

On Monday morning at 6am I shall again be queuing up outside a courtroom. I never had any intention this blog would become so concentrated on court reporting, but then I never expected the state to be trying to put so many of my friends in prison.

Nor had I expected at this stage in my life to be threatened with prison myself. The Procurator Fiscal’s office in Scotland wrote to me to say that they are considering prosecuting me for contempt of court – which when it is related to a major criminal trial, carries a maximum sentence in Scotland of up to two years in prison.

20200121 LRM letter to C Murray[353039]

I have still not heard where their consideration of whether to prosecute me has led them. But the job of the Crown Office is to prosecute criminals, not to write them letters. My interpretation of the letter, which I believe would be the interpretation of any reasonable person, is that it is an attempt at censorship by terrifying me into removing the article of which they complain.

The Crown should not be doing that. If the Crown is ordering the suppression of satire without the decision of a judge, then we have set Scottish society and Scottish liberties back several hundred years. The Crown is not in the position of somebody who feels themselves libeled and might send a “cease and desist”. For the Crown to attempt direct censorship without judicial authority is a very serious breach of human rights.

The article complained of, clearly labeled as fiction, does not mention Alex Salmond nor any of his accusers and is largely a satire on the Moorov Doctrine. If the Crown is saying that it is illegal to satirise the Moorov Doctrine lest you reduce its efficacy, that again appears to me to have serious human rights implications. A senior QC told me shortly before Christmas that, entirely unrelated to the Salmond Case, they had been briefed by the Procurator Fiscal Service that it was their policy to push and extend the use of Moorov Doctrine. There is a very wide public interest in discussing that.

All of which naturally constrains my reporting next week. It is of course important both to give the fairest hearing to the accusers and not to prejudice jury members on the facts with which they are faced. But I cannot even tell you what happened in court at the last case management hearing, although it is very important. When combined with the anonymity of the accusers, it does make it very difficult indeed to report the background to the case, which given its profound political implications that engage a legitimate wider public interest, is deeply disturbing to me. I shall however do my best, in full compliance with both the law of contempt and the rulings of the court, but operating hard up against that boundary in the interests of free speech and public knowledge, to the extent that is permissible and legitimate, to report as much of the truth as I can.

Hopefully without going to prison. Wish me luck.

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175 thoughts on “The Alex Salmond Trial and Censorship

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  • TenaciousV (@VMorton9)

    Is Moorov used to ‘Kill two birds with one stone’ Which means throw 14 charges at a person & it you get a guilty on one you get guilty on the other 13? For the CPS to write to you in a veiled threatening way is really a worry for all of us. Secret Trials are going on as is!! This attempt to shut down anyone who has opined albeit in satire is very Big Brother. I do not see Private Eye being shut down..although I know they get lawyers letters etc every week! Savile was not around to put on trial when the story spilled over. That allowed so many folk to claim to have known or seen him behave wrongly….yet no one has come out saying same about AS? Thank you for keeping an eye on this case Craig. Take care… & watch yer back!

    • Tom Welsh

      “I do not see Private Eye being shut down…”

      As far as criticism of government is concerned, Private Eye joined the MSM years ago – perhaps as long ago as 2000. I had bought it, and often subscribed, since the first first issue back in 1963. After about 2005, I found that its coverage of foreign affairs was becoming indistinguishable from that of The Times, The Guardian, or the BBC – in other words, the government line.

      Every time there was a reference to Russia, for example, I took note. I don’t think I ever found a single article, cartoon, or editorial that put Russia or Mr Putin in a favourable light.

      The founders Richard Ingrams, Willie Rushton, Christopher Booker and Paul Foot – not to mention Peter Cook – would not recognize Private Eye as it has become. Indeed, it resembles Punch – which they used to mock mercilessly for its toothless establishment humour – much more than the original “Eye”.

      • Kempe

        i don’t think I’ve ever found a single article, cartoon or editorial in Private Eye that put any nation or it’s leader in a favourable light. Why should Russia and Putin get special treatment?

        • Ascot2

          Point taken, but Private Eye is meant to be humorous and the longstanding (sick) joke of our day has become Western Russophobia itself.

        • Coldish

          Private Eye (while I was a subscriber) consistently attacked Julian Assange and ridiculed the idea that any attempt would be made to extradite him to the USA.

        • Tom Welsh

          My point was that, wehenever Russia and the West were at odds, Private Eye invariably took the side of the West. None of the founders, nor Peter Cook would have put up with that for a moment.

      • N_

        Private Eye (1961) ~ That Was the Week,That Was ~ Beyond the Fringe.
        Posh, posh, posh.
        There was an “Establishment” club in Soho.
        I subscribed for a year a few years ago. The local government stuff made my eyes glaze over.

      • Ingwe

        I agree with Tom Welch at 17:32 on the 5th, regarding ‘Private Eye’. It is part of the Establishment but its biggest failing is its inaccuracies. This means it’s not reliable, with the result that all it achieves is spreading confusion. There are occasional disclosures, mostly in the City pages, of financial graft and excess but no real criticism of the system. And its press and media pages are sub-A level school mag, self-referential, scandal sheets. I no longer buy it.

    • Samantha

      Moorov is what the Yanks call similar facts evidence. Say two women are accusing a man of dragging them into bed and attempting to rape them. Each separate count is uncorroborated. But if we take both together it forms a “course of conduct”. The question for the court is are these complainers reliable and credible. If so, then in Law their is “sufficiency of evidence” to convict. Even though the accused is under no evidence to prove their innocence the accused person giving evidence is the “highlight” of any trial. It is sufficient for the accused person to state: “I did not do it. I did not attack those two women.” It is perfectly fine for the jury to accept this as the defence do not need to provide corroboration. But in the absence of a (reliable) denial, well… Of course making a denial exposes the accused to cross-examination. Also the Judge can direct the jury that there is a “sufficiency of evidence to convict. That is not a verdict that is a legal direction.” But you only need to watch the jury recoil back in their seats to know what they take this to mean: “Don’t mess”. Juries will mistakenly believe that they might get in trouble for going against the wishes of the judge – there is a lot of pressure.
      As the judge knows the verdict before it is delivered watch their face to see if it went their way (guilty).

  • Ort

    Good luck, Craig. It’s gratifying, though expected, that you are not fazed by the Crown’s scurrilous, bumptious attempt to harass and intimidate you.

    That said, I trust you are not rashly putting yourself in judicial harm’s way in hopes of becoming Julian Assange’s sympathetic cellmate. 😉

  • Blair Paterson

    This is typical of the times we live in mass murderers walk the streets and are given air time although they are proven liars Blair Campbell Straw etc., while people who tell the truth are lmprisiond and hounded by the guilty establishmen this UK is rotten to the core right from the top down well Craig remember that old saying don’t let the bastards get you down as general MacArthur said though the battalions of evil are mighty the battalions of good are mightier still fight on

  • Rhys Jaggar

    Those who profoundly believe in democracy have a healthy ability to laugh at themselves and take satirical criticism as an opportunity to have a good laugh.

    Those who see criticism as a reason to put opponents in prison are profoundly authoritarian, bordering on fascist.

    There is of course a boundary between pungent criticism and personal abuse and every human tends to draw it at a slightly different point on the continuum.

    I do not believe that this is a case of those differences, however: rather an increasing arrogance on the part of the ‘born to rule’ pseudo-elite.

    The elite is pseudo because they think they are the elite but the rest of us do not see them thus…….

    • Tom Welsh

      Rhys, I think the main reason why the rich and powerful hate satire is that they know laughter is the only weapon they need to fear.

      • Cap'n Klonk

        Well, I don’t think one need be quite so pessimistic: I still harbour dreams involving pitchforks, pikes, heads, ravens, petards, meat hooks and Standard Pil petrol stations..

  • Rosemary MacKenzie

    There was a guy back at the beginning of the 19th century who kept the British state and the American for that matter on their toes. They really hated him but I always admired him. One of the names he went by was Peter Porcupine. Things don’t really change and this is two hundred years later.

    Best of luck Craig and thanks for all you do.

    • bevin

      Well said. And his birthday, which will be a national holiday when the many rule, falls next Monday: 257 and still going strong.

  • Jerry Peplinski

    Best Wishes ! Watching Brittania’s justice being meted out to Julian Assange for revealing the truth. Britain has had hundreds of years to perfect it’s justice system.

    • Marmite

      You mean 100s of years to make it fool proof in protecting power and conspiring against justice, truth and morality?

  • Doug

    Better not do an up-to-date satire of Porridge. Seriously though, the letter you received is worrying, for all the reasons you state. Kudos to you for all your past and future work.

  • Jim Murphy

    It will be of interest to find out if the witnesses in this case have, in any way been coached in their evidence and indeed have ever heard of the Moorov Doctrine, it would seem that someone, in order to bring this to court has suggested that if they all sing from the same hymn sheet, damage of some sort could be caused against the name of an innocent person, for reasons best known to the parties concerned it would seem that for political reasons this is the case and NOTHING to do with any criminality, we are becoming more like the United States. In the event that it can be proved that the witnesses have been coached in any way, I trust that the people involved be brought before the same court and dealt with along with any pretend victims, I beg the question “Why were these allegations NOT investigated at the time”.

  • Rory Winter

    We’re all prisoners of Mother England now.

    So much for the independence of the Scottish judiciary! Even the village idiot will see that letter to have been sent to you by a minion on the express instructions of the British deep state to intimidate and harass you from exposing them. It’s no wonder that Scotland is imprisoned by the fiction of Section 30 orders when it and the rUK is being turned into a waiting room for the global Gulag Archipelago.

  • ArcSine

    Is one possible solution to the legal threats to have some or all of your essays emailed to a person you know based abroad who can then post on your behalf as a recognised Craig Murray proxy. As far as I understand anyone in a foreign jurisdiction with a foreign domiciled website can publicly comment on court related matters here without concern. From your point of view you would be sending a private correspondence to another party who then chooses of their own accord to make it public. The very most they could presumably do is try and force UK ISPs to block the site.

  • IMcK

    I’ve just reread the 18 Jan 2020 ‘Yes Minister’ article. I could picture how the original actors would have played it and I thought it was hilarious. Interesting that Scotland’s COPFS appears to attribute some or all of its content as representative of the current Alex Salmond case. I wonder if my local drama group might think it could pull in the punters and be interested in a premier ‘Och Aye Minister’ …by CM Murray….Its entirely fictional ….yet… Its authenticity is endorsed by Scotland’s Crown Office (COPFS)?

  • Cap'n Klonk

    …Having grown up in apartheid South Africa, I remember how the police and other authorities dealt with people who they couldn’t silence by threats of court action or prison. They were arrested and then died when they fell four floors from the police headquarters when mistakenly opening a window allegedly seeking fresh air or there were the spate of unfortunate shower deaths where the unfortunate ‘offender’ (invariably black) would slip on soap and repeatedly bang his head on the concrete floor until he died.
    As the ‘joke’ ran in those days ” A black prisoner was found dead with sixteen bullet wounds in his back and his throat cut. Police called it the worse case of suicide ever seen.”
    Mr Murray, when the ‘subtle’ approach as manifested in the letter fails to work in silencing you, beware of the less subtle approaches. Be careful out there!

    These days there is a plethora of more subtle and “plausibly deniable” modi op. available to the Organs of State.
    Such, most pertinently at present, as… a “virus” that sweeps through a high-security prison and dispatches a number of “undesirable” elements waiting in remand (“What a pity, but then they are such nasty, overcrowded places, and we did do our best, honest”) … and continuing its “sweep”, strikes down a number of middle-aged and elderly citizens, including, coincidentally, a few awkward cusses who just wouldn’t shut up and tow the government line (“What a pity, but we know by his own admission that he was feeling poorly recently…”)

    Be ever watchful.

    • Monster

      Your mention of the SA security apparatus in apartheid times calls to mind the role of magistrate Vanessa Baraitser (of Julian Assange notoriety) whose family of Jewish South Africans may be linked to the UK intelligence services, considering the dramatic rise to fame of the family head, Michael Baraitser, from antique furniture expert in Cape Town to head of genetics at Great Ormond Street hospital. SA’s membership of the Brics organisation renders it an enemy of the west and MI6/5 have develeopd ‘desks’ to deal with it, such as destabilising its economy. The Baraitsers, with links to Israel (a firm supporterof apartheid SA), and supporters of the old regime, appear to be useful idiots. Gordon Winter a former BOS/MI5 agent who helped design the Jeremy Thorpe hit and the Peter Hain bank raid, has written about the deep state links with the old apartheid regime. The embarrassing Vanessa Baraitser and her handlers are well aware of Craig, and are looking for blood.

      • craig Post author

        I am not quite sure that is fair. I have seen no evidence the family supported apartheid, or that they have links to Israel, and I don’t think their being Jewish (if true) has anything to do with it. There were many very distinguished Jewish opponents of apartheid. The links of both Israel and the UK security apparatus to the apartheid regime are certainly very true; but I don’t see any reason to link Baraitser’s parents personally to that.

  • Gary

    If the PF don’t make anything of your publication when the case starts (to prevent prejudice against their case) then you have to assume they do not find it prejudicial. I would have thought the court would ORDER the taking down of the article in the interim period whilst the case (against you) is considered. Although I suppose they don’t have to show that it DID cause prejudice or would have, merely that it broke the rules in disclosing matters material to their case. That would free them up to prosecute any time during the case or after as the ‘offence’ continues with the article being available to view. On the other hand, taking the article down is an admission of guilt and could be used against you.

    But it would be a neat way to take out the only man who reported on the Assange case too, wouldn’t it? It could be used as an opening to further charges which could be ‘found’ upon investigation…

  • Brianfujisan

    Looks like some in the Legal Establishment are paying attention to your Blog Craig.
    And Probably more so after your Brilliant reporting of J.A’s case last week.. I hope you get into court on Monday.
    Good luck to you and Alex


  • Bibbit

    Dear Craig,

    you remind me of Thomas Muir. Unvanquished.

    “I have devoted myself to the cause of ‘The People’. It is a good cause – it shall ultimately prevail – it shall finally triumph.”

  • fedup

    The openly coercive threats and SIS tails etc are designed to frighten people into inaction.

  • Roderick Russell

    Craig, you have a gift for writing satire. Your posting “Yes Minister Fan Fiction” is an excellent article. However when I read it initially I didn’t think that it had anything at all to do with any particular case in Scotland, possibly because I live far away in Canada.

    Rather I thought that if any case had been a trigger for your writing the article it was likely to be the Assange case since the sexual smearing of Assange and the malicious use of legal process in Sweden seemed to fit. But most of all I have long thought that there is far too much use of extreme “Moorov” style processes to smear one’s enemies.

    There has been far too much of this stuff in recent years and it is high time that articles like yours were, in the public interest, published on the subject. I am a reasonable person. Not for a moment did I link your article with the Scots case that the Procurator seems to have referred to. Rather, like most other reasonable people, I thought it a generic satire (without any specific case in mind) on this type of smearing.

    • Ian

      That was also my take on the matter. That it was primarily related to the Assange case. Perhaps it’s a Canadian thing.

      That the prosecutors in another case should interpret the satire as relating to the case they themselves are prosecuting is perhaps very telling indeed.

    • Gotlev

      Indeed. I thought it was inspired both by Assange and similar political cases, and Craig’s personal experience when he was removed from his position as ambassador.

  • andic

    That letter is a disgrace.

    It is probably a bluff, but many people would find it terrifying. Treat it with the contempt it deserves, if we all did so then soon everyone would see all these little Hitlers actually have no clothes.

    Apologies for the mixed metaphors

  • Willie

    Everything is now pointing to the establishment working to destroy the independence movement.

    2014 was a close run thing and the establishment knew it. What better expedient then than to destroy the movement within by compromising the political party who had nearly ended the Union. And that it seems has been exactly what has happened.

    For whatever reason the SNP has, at least in terms of the small coterie who head the party, turned policy away from independence to an acceptance of devolution. Not for them a challenge on behalf of the people through the courts. Nor for them another referendum unless Boris Jonson grant them one. Not for them any support for the wider Selection Yes and or AUOB movement and which movement is now operating without the co-operation of the SNP.

    And not for them the potential return of a leader who ran the establishment close and in this there can be no clearer example than the charges being brought against Alex Salmond. Secret accusers, a flawed governmental process, in camera hearings it has all the hallmarks of an establishment stitch up to destroy the man they fear most.

    But it’s not just Salmond. The organisers of the hugely popular independence marches have been pursued for allegedly facilitating illegal marches. Blogger Stuart Campbell was the subject of an early morning arrest on the grounds that his independence blog Wings over Scotland was intimidatory to an unknown complainant. And now Craig Murray is the subject of threatened legal action.

    That together with an SNP now rotting from within as the high command seek to resist the nomination of an eminent QC – MP who would change the party’s anodyne acceptance of devolution whilst kicking the ball away from the independence goal that is now beckoning, tells you all. There are dark forces at work intent on destroying the independence movement and they are using the devolved government to do so.

    With Wings Over Scotland now effectively in suspension, Craig Murray is next as this the Crown Office letter shows. Dark days indeed, but if we all stick together, pursue what we know needs to be pursued, and remove the blockers who would destroy what we want to achieve, then independence can be won.

    Escaping the British state was never going to be easy. History tells us this example after example from the USA Declaration of Independence, to Kenya, to India to Ireland and lots of other colonies in between, the UK has always played dirty – and they do so today.

    Grateful thanks to Craig Murray for his support in the independence movement. We and all who are democrats need to get behind resisting those who would literally enslave us.

  • Mary

    Craig saw it close up in Uzbekistan. Karimov died in 2016. His shoe in was Shavkat Mirziyoyev. The same as Karimov? Or better or worse?

    Does Alisher Usmanov stlll live in the Getty mansion, Sutton Place? Yes I discovered.

    Some other news –
    A king’s ransom! Retired gardener sells bust of Alexander the Great for almost £400,000 after he was told he could keep it when he found it buried on Tudor estate once owned by oil magnate Jean Paul Getty
    Gardener finds 15-inch sculpture of Alexander the Great at Sutton Place, Surrey
    Manor was previously owned by avid art collector Jean Paul Getty
    Art collector Stanley Seeger told gardener to keep the bust as a gift
    The ancient work of art sold for more than 300 times its original value

  • Dungroanin

    It appears that this move against Craig was set in motion btl a week ago – on the back of his stupendous impact and reach with the Assange railroading.

    I ran into this character at Off-G spouting
    “I suspect the glass case is to make Assange look like a persecuted victim/folk hero to ludicrous fantasists like Craig Murray.”

    Where that poster attempts to get a rise from other posters. I responded as I saw fit and haven’t heard from him/her since.

  • David

    Good luck next week Craig.

    you know how we are told that nobody pays attention to Craig, that typing a page on the internet has little to no effect, here’s a short list of who has been rippled by Mr Murray’s recent journalism…

    Australia: Consular officials pressured over trial conditions facing Julian Assange
    Consular officials and officers from the high commission in London are attending each day of Assange’s trial and providing summaries of the proceedings to Foreign Minister Marise Payne and senior officials. “At this stage, we have not received any information to suggest that anything other than due process is being afforded to him,” DFAT executive Andrew Todd told a Senate estimates hearing on Thursday.

    whilst anyone reading Craig’s blog knows different!

    Some Aussies know different too
    Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, who recently visited Mr Assange inside the facility, told SBS News the Wikileaks founder is effectively being held in “solitary confinement” and his attendance in court sees him “quarantined from his lawyers.” “He is being treated very poorly and in my opinion not consistent with what we would regard as reasonable standards for someone who is not actually charged with anything,” he said. “He’s basically just been detained facing an extradition trial – I think it is completely unreasonable.”

    More Australian fallout for UKUSA, they wanted a quick execution…

    An Australian local council supports Julian
    Byron Council supports Assange by Paul Bibby
    Should Byron Council get involved in the fight to bring Wikileaks
    founder Julian Assange home to Australia or stick to fixing potholes?
    The answer at last week’s full Council meeting was a nearly unanimous
    ‘Yes’ to entering the arena on Assange.
    Despite the protestations of Councillor Alan Hunter that the issue was ‘not our paddock’, councillors voted to write to the Foreign Affairs Minister demanding action – or at least to get Council staff to do so. They also voted to write to all local state and federal representatives asking them to either join or support the Bring Assange Home Parliamentary Group, which is currently made up of 11 MPs from across party lines.
    ‘We can’t let our freedoms and our rights be eroded like this,’ said Deputy Mayor Sarah Ndiaye, who moved the Assange motion.

    ‘Julian is not the only one [being persecuted] but he is being held up as a poster boy. They are sending the message “this is what happens when you speak up”
    ‘We need to do something, but the Australian government has been doing bugger all. This is a notice of motion to say enough is enough.’

    Who is International Politics and Society, a Putin front?
    they seem to be German, and asking serious questions
    Journalists and whistleblowers are coming under increasing pressure not only in authoritarian states, but also in the West. What must be done to protect them from political persecution?
    We need a comprehensive understanding that whistleblowing is good and necessary. People who uncover the worst offences are not fouling their own nest, but they are rather doing a service to democracy and human rights.

    Whistleblowers must be protected by international conventions and agreements as well as by national laws

    New laws being planned in USA to support Julian
    Alex Abdo, litigation director at the Knight First Amendment
    Institute of Columbia University, concluded, “This is a crucial effort to ensure that it isn’t a crime for national security journalists to do their jobs. The bill would make clear that the everyday work of journalists isn’t an act of espionage.” “These protections for journalists are vital. It is also vital that Congress enact additional protections for national security whistleblowers, who must risk personal and professional sanction to expose government malfeasance and corruption.”

    People in Brisbane are writing

    New York University is protesting for Julian
    Student Organizers Lead Rally in Support of Assange
    International Youth and Students for Social Equality held a rally at the Kimmel steps on Tuesday, March 3 to press for the release of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning from prison.

    The 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism lays in

    Sydney Lawyers tool up
    People for Assange spokesperson Michelle Wood told Sydney Criminal Lawyers last week, this is no exaggeration. The US government outlined its intention to use special administrative measures in late January, which Wood said could mean we may “never hear from Julian again”.
    And Assange is facing this grim future, not for committing any crime, but for reporting on the lies and the offences perpetrated by the US government, via classified documents leaked by Chelsea Manning.

    Indeed, his fate dictates whether all of us have a right to know in the future.

    there’s a lot more out there, even if the dear BBC hasn’t noticed this particular story, yet…

  • Mary

    Another YCNMIU

    Government staff offered ‘wellbeing support’ ahead of Alex Salmond trial
    Civil servants have been offered support in case their wellbeing is affected by the trial of former First Minister, Alex Salmond, which is due to start next Monday, it has been revealed.

    I could only see the headline as you have to register to read the whole. JPI Media will have to do without mine.

  • Vivian O'Bliviion

    ‘Bout the only decent thing left on BBC Radio Shortbread was the media review on Thursday lunchtime. Needless to say Donalda McKinnon axed it ’cause it had the temerity to occasionally criticise the BBC. Good news is that Stuart Cosgrove and Eamonn O’Neill have kept the format live as a podcast. Search, Talk media podcast to hear Stuart, Eamonn and a guest pundit discuss matters pertaining to Scottish media.

  • SheepShearer

    Would it be possible via a FOI request to find out the internal communications that led to this obviously intimidatory letter? Surely some discussion must have taken place before a letter intended to censor was sent from a government office?

  • David Reid

    All the very best Craig your a hero in your own lifetime I salute you and your indefatigability of trying to bring truth to the Scottish public and beyond. I believe you know as personal experience to how low the state can go keep yourself safe I and many others will be with you

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