I’ve seen the blood on Labour’s hands

From The Sunday Times (18.09.05)

An interview with Craig Murray by John Sweeney, the producer of the forthcoming TV documentary.

Our sacked man in Tashkent tells John Sweeney he won’t give up his fight against Britain’s reliance on foreign intelligence obtained by torture

It’s early morning and Craig Murray -our former man in Uzbekistan -is making himself a cup of tea in a Blackburn semi during his doomed attempt to unseat the foreign secretary Jack Straw in May’s general election. His towel slips and he is exposed, our nudest ambassador.

“Oops!” says Murray, “losing my dignity. Not to mention my towel. Careful where you’re putting that camera. Children might be watching. Old ladies might faint with shock. Young ladies might faint with lust.”

They might, but that seems unlikely. Murray is 46, and has the body of a devil sick of sin. But he does have a 25-year-old Uzbeki girlfriend and a liking for a drink and talks openly about the joys of sex. So, you might say, no wonder Jack Straw’s men fired him.

Being a sexual pervert, a crook or a drunk has never been an impediment to a fine career in the Foreign Office: Donald Maclean once defecated on the carpet during a party thrown by an American diplomat and it was all hushed up. Nothing untoward happened to the traitor until he upped sticks and defected to Moscow.

Today, one senior figure at King Charles Street is said to be a serial shagger – “everybody knows about it” -having allegedly bedded at least two female Labour MPs, and nobody has cut down his ration of Ferrero Rochers.

Although Murray admits he is a bit of a lad, he insists that he is not a drunk or a crook or a perv, and remains deeply wounded that the Foreign Office accused him of selling visas for sex, of being off his head on booze and stealing Her Majesty’s dosh: “They hit me with 18 charges and I was cleared on all 18.” His crime, he says, was to commit the sin of sins, to criticise the way America was running its war on terror, in private and in public.

He challenged the credibility of Uzbeki intelligence given to the Americans and British, saying that it was based on torture. X and Y and Z were confessing to be major players in Al-Qaeda, said the raw material from the Uzbeks. Rubbish, said Murray, pointing out that in President Islam Karimov’s neo-Stalinist central Asian despotism, they boil people alive, and worse.

In a series of telegrams to Straw, copied to MI6, the lawyers and all the senior players, Murray argued that a) intelligence based on torture was useless because a torture victim will confess to anything, and b) that it was morally wrong -“we are selling our souls for dross”.

Straw saw the telegrams, says Murray, and came to the judgment that Her Majesty’s government should continue relying on the boil-in-the-bag intelligence.

This issue wasn’t academic for the ambassador. Within days of starting his job in Tashkent in 2002, photographs of a corpse landed on his desk. He sent them off to Britain, to be analysed by a Home Office pathologist.

The victim was a supporter of Hizb ut-Tahrir, a fundamentalist Islamic organisation but one that professes non-violence. Murray says: “The main finding was that this person had died from immersion in boiling liquid. And it was immersion, rather than splashing, because there was a clear tide-line around the upper torso and upper limbs and complete burns coverage underneath.

“Obviously the idea of someone being boiled to death is pretty horrific and that was one of the first eye-openers that I found in Uzbekistan.”

Most British ambassadors would have huffed and puffed in private, and said nothing in public. Imagine the fuss, then, when Murray spoke his mind in a speech in Tashkent in October 2002. Lines such as “Uzbekistan is not a functioning democracy”, “brutality is inherent” and just the mention of the secret police “boiling men to death” went down like a lead balloon. The uproar in central Asia was heard in Washington DC.

The Americans have a huge airbase there, just north of Afghanistan. What Murray said might have been true, but it was not “helpful” in the war on terror.

Murray is nothing if not smart. He had cleared his speech with the Foreign Office beforehand. Someone might have been very dim at King Charles Street, but they couldn’t get Murray on procedure.

As the war in Iraq drew near, and Washington’s rhetoric about Saddam’s “torture and rape rooms” grew louder, Murray sent telegrams bemoaning “double standards”.

“When it comes to the Karimov regime, systematic torture and rape appear to be treated as peccadillos, not to affect the relationship and to be downplayed in the international (forums) … I hope that once the present crisis is over we will make plain to the US, at senior level, our serious concern over their policy in Uzbekistan.”

The irony here for Murray is that he says all he was doing was following new Labour’s ethical foreign policy. The problem was, perhaps, that the policy had been dropped.

A stout patriot, in every sense of the phrase, Murray’s contempt for what he calls the doublespeak that justified torture is based on a deep sense that Britishness should never have anything to do with electrodes on genitals. It is a remarkable passion for a diplomat and has caused him to lose his job, his lifestyle and, for a time, his sanity.

Murray said while stomping the streets of Blackburn: “I feel tremendously strongly about what this government has done in launching an illegal war, combined with the attacks on civil liberty at home, the portrayal of the Muslim community as being full of terrorists and the decision to obtain and use intelligence that was got under torture. This constitutes a real slide towards evil and people have a duty to try to stand up against it, and that’s what I’m doing.”

Murray’s sacrifice was real. He loved his job. “I do often wish I was back in Uzbekistan, partly because I liked the people so much but mostly because I felt I was doing valuable work.”

He also loved the lifestyle. “There was a very beautiful landscaped garden in Uzbekistan, a very wonderful swimming pool. It was very idyllic. I used to have people who hung up my clothes for me, and washed them and ironed them, and all that sort of stuff. Sadly, those days are gone.”

And going bonkers wasn’t fun. After the Foreign Office accused him of being a thieving, drunken sex maniac, he suffered a mental breakdown and was flown back to London and admitted to St Thomas’s hospital. “I was determined to hold onto my self-respect. I wasn’t going to admit to something that I hadn’t done. But it’s amazing how easy it is to break someone.

“I went into complete listlessness, apathy, I was crying, I couldn’t see any way out. I couldn’t tell anyone about it and I was actually brought back under medical supervision. For the first 10 days of that I was on suicide watch. That involved a large male nurse being with me, 24 hours a day, following me into the loo and that kind of thing. I tell you that if you’re not suicidal before, you get suicidal pretty quickly when you are being followed into the loo by a large male nurse.”

He got his marbles back, fought the Foreign Office, cleared his name and realised his career was over. He took early retirement and remains Jack Straw’s least favourite critic. Thus far, the ever-nimble foreign secretary has avoided every single attempt by Murray to debate the issues one-to-one.

A bit like the Terminator, Murray staggers on, relentlessly, accusing Straw of complicity in torture -and that is a breach of article 4 of the United Nations convention against torture. Straw’s line is that, “to the best of my knowledge”, no intelligence he receives is based on torture, to which Murray says: “He is lying.” The Foreign Office disagrees.

Murray’s heroic failure when he stood in Blackburn against Straw is, like most tragedies, blackly comical. I will never forget the sight of Murray standing on top of the Green Goddess, the ancient army fire engine he bought for the campaign, and proclaiming in his rich baritone to elderly Lancashire ladies who looked the spitting image of Ena Sharples: “People have their fingernails ripped out, have electrodes attached to their genitals, are suffocated, drowned in the torture chambers …”

He got fewer votes than the British National party. It was a miserable ending to a brave adventure as Straw’s supporters booed Murray with special vehemence. “The guy from the BNP turned to me and said, ‘They hate you more than me’.”

The day we finished editing our film was 7/7. We were in a sound dub in central London, a few streets away from the Tavistock Square bus bomb. The sound engineer quipped: “It’s a great film, John, but torturing Muslims is about to be Britain’s number one Olympic sport.”

It was a cruel joke, all the funnier because of the germ of truth in it. If torturing some fanatic with a beard in Uzbekistan could prevent another 50 people being blown to smithereens on the Piccadilly line, why not? Murray replies: “No.

Torturing innocents is wrong. But torturing the guilty is wrong, too. If we in Britain change our mind about that, then at least we should have the honesty to say so. Torture is wrong, full stop.”

At the forthcoming Labour party conference Straw will trot out his usual line: “The British government does not condone torture, full stop” -which is not quite the same thing, as he and Craig Murray know only too well.

John Sweeney’s The Ambassador’s Last Stand will be broadcast on BBC2 on Wednesday at 7pm

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BBC Radio 4 – Craig Murray “On the Ropes” (link updated 20.09.05)

BBC Radio 4 – “On The Ropes”

Tue 5 Jul, 09:00 – 09:30 30 mins

John Humphrys discusses drinking, diplomacy and human rights with Britain’s former ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, who claims to have been sacked for telling the truth.

You will need RealPlayer to listen to this interview. Downloaded it free from

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The Metro – 60 Second Interview with Craig Murray

The Metro – 60 Second Interview: by Kieran Meeke, May 17th, 2005

As Britain’s Ambassador to the Central Asian republic of Uzbekistan, Craig Murray spoke out against the human rights abuses of the US-funded regime long before the recent massacre. He lost his job last year and stood against Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in the General Election to protest against Western policy in the region and the war in Iraq.

You warned more than a year ago that Uzbekistan would explode. How angry are you to see it happening?

It gives me no pleasure to be proved right. It’s interesting to see the hypocrisy of Jack Straw and others claiming they are doing something. We’ve long known that this was a terrible regime and it was bound to lead to public protest. And we knew that the regime would act viciously against that protest. President Karimov has the arrogance that comes from knowing he has the support of both Washington and Moscow.

President Karimov of Uzbekistan is a brutal dictator but he’s our dictator. Discuss.

Yes, that’s very much the American line. They argue that our alliance with Karimov is a necessary evil, like our alliance with Stalin in Word War II. There is no such comparison. The only factor driving radical Islam in Central Asia is people despairing at the regime and the lack of any democratic alternative.

What happens next?

Not much. We’ll see more hypocrisy from the US and the UK, calling for everything short of actual change. Democratic elections within a year are the only thing that will defuse the situation. There is no sign we’re going to call for that, nor that we’re going to stop calling Uzbekistan ‘our ally in the war on terror’, nor that the US is going to stop giving the regime a few hundred million dollars a year. There’s no sign Jack Straw will stop using intelligence from the Uzbek security services which is extracted by torture. Coming out of the torture chambers will be people ‘admitting’ they were working for Osama Bin Laden, and Washington will give some credence to all that nonsense.

Intelligence produced through torture is bad intelligence. Why are the CIA addicted to it?

Well, it’s plainly immoral and illegal. Secondly, it’s rubbish. But while the material is untrue, that doesn’t mean it’s not useful. The US Government is delighted to have material that says the Uzbek opposition are Islamic militants. It gives them the excuse to go on backing Karimov.

Is the ‘War on Terror’ a genuine threat or a fantasy from the intelligence services?

A great deal of it is a fantasy. The intelligence about weapons of mass destruction wasn’t true, either, but it was extremely useful. The same is true of intelligence that allows former Met Police Chief John Stevens to say there are 200 Islamic terrorists active in Britain. Active Islamic terrorists, prepared to sacrifice their own lives, but they haven’t managed to kill anyone yet. Not very good terrorists, are they? It’s all complete rubbish designed to keep the population in a state of fear. Tanks at Heathrow to keep a suicide bomber off a plane? It’s plainly bollocks – hype.

We topple an evil dictator in Iraq, yet support an evil dictator in Uzbekistan. Why the paradox? You can’t believe Tony Blair and Jack Straw are evil or stupid.

There certainly are evil people in the White House and the Pentagon. The decision has been taken that, in the war on terror, Britain should be extremely close to the US. Jack Straw finds the alliance over Uzbekistan distasteful but he’s held his nose and got on with it. The Americans are cynical; their interest in Central Asia is all about oil and gas. We back a dictator in Central Asia to get access to oil and gas, and we remove a dictator in Iraq to get access to oil and gas. Explain American policy in terms of freedom and democracy and you get a contradiction. Explain it in terms of oil and gas and it’s completely consistent.

60 SECONDS EXTRA!: Well, the US is the world’s greatest economy. It’s your business to get rid of anything threatening your fuel supplies. What’s wrong with that?

Well, they want to get access to it so they can burn it up as quickly as possible in their massive gas-guzzling cars and with a total lack of concern for energy conservation. They will drive forward global warming.

60 SECONDS EXTRA!: But they don’t believe in global warming…

They claim not to. You have to tie in this political stance to their refusal to sign the Kyoto Agreement. That’s what makes it all so bloody disastrous.

60 SECONDS EXTRA!: To deny the reality sounds stupid, almost insane.

It’s not insane to the interests promoting it. They stand to make huge fortunes in oil and gas. It’s the energy companies who are the lobbyists for the non-existence of global warming. They are just pursuing a very narrow personal interest, which is typical of America. Often they are stupid and their policy in Uzbekistan is extremely stupid. They are going to create Islamic fundamentalism. But this is all in the interests of the military establishment – a bigger threat means more money, better pay, more jobs etc. I seem to have developed a very cynical world view.

What can a Metro reader do?

Write to their MP. As someone who has worked in the Foreign Office, I can tell you it has much more effect than you might think. The MP passes it on and it has to be answered within a week. Six letters and they think the electorate is fascinated by this subject. Write and demand free elections in Uzbekistan and demand we stop calling it an ally.

60 SECONDS EXTRA!: You gave the voters of Blackburn a unique opportunity to judge Jack Straw’s conduct. They rejected you. Should you now shut up?

It’s amazing that 2,000 people voted for someone with no backing, banging on about Uzbekistan. I didn’t enter the election with any thought that I might possibly win and I can think of nothing worse than sitting in Parliament with all those boring farts. I intended to make a point and I did.

60 SECONDS EXTRA!: Do you support ID cards?

Completely appalling idea. As a diplomat, I used to boast that Britain was a free country where you could walk around without a policeman demanding to know who you are. I’ll certainly refuse to carry one. What will happen with illegal immigrants? You can’t deport half-a-million people. Are you going to lock up everyone who refuses to carry them? Will terrorists who forge passports be stumped by forging an ID card or stealing one? It’s claimed to be a cure for everything short of the common cold but it’s an extraordinarily expensive non-panacea.

Craig Murray has urged the public to write to MPs calling for free elections in Uzbekistan, and demanding that Britain stops calling Karimov’s murderous regime our “ally”. Having worked in the Foreign Office, Craig has seen how much of a difference a letter to an MP can make.

To support Craig’s call, you can write to your MP via – it’s quick, easy and free!

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Index On Censorship – interview with Craig Murray

Index on Censorship – Craig Murray interviewed:Craig Murray, Britain’s former ambassador to Uzbekistan, has been portrayed in the media as a colourful and dotty rogue with a penchant for bars, girls, Range-Rovers and outrageous breaches of diplomatic protocol. In August 2003, he was confronted with a series of disciplinary charges by the Foreign Office, which he was not permitted to discuss with anyone, and instructed to resign. He refused. The allegations were dropped within a few weeks but not before Murray had had a breakdown and a pulmonary embolism that nearly killed him. He was finally removed from his post in October 2004.

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Teeing off in Tashkent

Author: Sam Webber writing in ConcreteOnline

The former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, visited UEA at the end of last term. Having risen quickly through the ranks within the Diplomatic Service, it was a shock when he was suspended from the post in November 2004, before finally being laid off in February of this year. He is now standing as an Independent candidate in the seat of Blackburn at the general election to try and get rid of the sitting MP there – Foreign Secretary Jack Straw – but more of that later.

Murray spoke at a packed meeting on campus, before going to Livewire to be interviewed, and then talking to Concrete’s Political Editor. He gave an incredible insight into the little known country of Uzbekistan, and highlighted the human rights violations taking place within it.

He joined the Diplomatic Service in 1984, after graduating with an MA in Modern History from Dundee University. Journalists have described his career within the Foreign Office as a “model of upward progress”, and one brief glance at his CV would show how successful his career had been up until his recent dismissal. Having briefly worked on the South Africa desk at the Foreign Office in Whitehall, he then went to Lagos in Nigeria, and later to Ghana and Poland. His appointment as an Ambassador, whilst still only in his early 40s, clearly marked the start of even bigger opportunities.

Upon arrival in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, he quickly discovered that very little was expected of him in this new and exciting post.

He states, quite seriously that, “If I’d done absolutely bugger all except play golf, the Foreign Office would have had no difficulties with me at all”. The powers that be clearly picked the wrong man to while away his years on the golf course, because Craig Murray immediately wanted to get to know Uzbekistan and the apparent problems there.

He quickly discovered that the then government comprised of exactly the same people as the government of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Uzbekistan, pre 1989. President Islam Karimov came to power in 1989, and he remains head of state today. Murray learnt that the major industry in Uzbekistan is cotton production, with almost all of the citizens helping out for three months of the year when the cotton is harvested. They are paid roughly $2 per month and have to work 12 hours a day. The numerous cotton farms have never been privatised, so therefore are state owned, with the product being sold for only about 3% of what it actually should be. In neighbouring Kazakhstan where the cotton industry is largely privatised, this is not a problem at all.

Murray spoke movingly about how schools and universities are shut during the cotton harvest; “All staff and students are forced to pick cotton for three months. It’s worse than Dickensian”. He went on to explain that a police stamp or exit visa is required to leave the cotton farm, so consequently many children born on the farms are unlikely to leave them. He added, “Kids as young as seven are out there picking cotton. 80 kilos a day of raw cotton each or you simply don’t get fed”. There is no pay at all to those under age, so child labour is basically insisted upon by the state.

Murray insists that much of the cotton in our clothes would be Uzbek cotton, but adds that it is not written on a clothes label where the cotton is from, consequently the consumer cannot boycott a particular brand if there is no way of telling the origin of the cotton. Apparently all cotton purchases must go through the Liverpool cotton exchange, so the former Ambassador hints that pressure could be exerted through this channel in the future.

Gold mining is briefly mentioned as the other main industry within Uzbekistan, although Murray stresses that President Karimov, “takes about 10% of gold sales revenue for himself, as his main source of personal income”. Karimov’s daughter, who works in government assisting the privatisation of state owned industries, has also managed to acquire a decent living from simply stealing large chunks of these companies. She now owns the Coca Cola bottling plant in Tashkent, as well as a half of a mobile telephone company. It appears from our far off perspective that corruption is rife within Uzbekistan. Indeed, in their annual Corruption Perception Index, Transparency International ranked Uzbekistan as the 114th most corrupt country in the world along with the likes of Honduras and Zimbabwe.

Due to Uzbekistan’s proximity to Afghanistan, the United States set up an air base there in 2001, as the war on terror commenced shortly after 9/11. Prior to the establishment of the air base, the US donated about $30 million each year to Uzbekistan in foreign aid. The annual donation now exceeds $500 million per year. Murray highlighted that this amount of aid is more than the US gives to the entire region of West Africa. Whether that amount is justified or excessive is a matter of opinion.

As word spread throughout the country of Craig Murray’s genuine concern for the plight of the Uzbeks, he learnt about several horrific cases, many of which he is putting into a book to be published later this year. One such case involved a 69-year-old man who had been boiled alive and had his finger nails removed as a punishment. His wife had taken several photographs of his dead body, which Murray had analysed. The wife was later given a sentence of 7 years hard labour for talking out. He later negotiated with the authorities and had her sentence reduced to a fine that the British Embassy paid.

Murray’s willingness to speak out about the horrific conditions in Uzbekistan did not impress his bosses in Whitehall. He immediately telegrammed the Foreign Office once he discovered that the CIA and MI5 were using intelligence which had been obtained under torture, which proved connections Uzbeks might have had with Osama Bin-Laden. Murray insisted that this was obtained under threats of death, but was told by his bosses that the intelligence was not illegal and indeed, that it was very valuable to the war on terror.

Murray’s Scottish determination never deserted him, and he continued to remind the Foreign Office about this intelligence, until they started to brief against him to the British press. Clearly by the summer of 2004 everybody in the Foreign Office from the Foreign Secretary down wanted Craig Murray out. When a telegram from Murray was ‘mysteriously’ leaked to the Financial Times in October 2004, Jack Straw had the perfect reason to suspend him from his duties.

Murray does not appear bitter about his predicament, as he sips his coffee in the Blend, immaculately fitted out in a three-piece suit. He is however hoping, perhaps forlornly, to oust Jack Straw from his parliamentary seat of Blackburn. Murray explains his candidacy further,

“It is really just to highlight that Jack Straw took the decision that we should use intelligence material which is obtained through torture. He took that decision.” When asked whom this message is being pitched at, Murray clarifies- “I’m pitching my message at Labour voters who are sick of this government’s foreign policy. These people may have been Labour all their lives, but they don’t like following George Bush”

Murray is highly unlikely to become the next Member of Parliament for Blackburn, but he is keen to raise awareness about the plight of the Uzbek people he tried to help whilst he was Ambassador. “Central Asia is a blank one for British people and there are fewer than 100 Uzbeks living in Britain.” Explaining the horrific situation within this far off country is certainly going to be a challenging task.

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Socialist Worker – Craig Murray, the doorstep diplomat

Socialist Worker – Craig Murray, the doorstep diplomatFocus: Could the election be won by fraud? (by Anindya Bhattacharyya)

Former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, now standing as an independent anti-war candidate against Jack Straw, spoke to Anindya Bhattacharyya

Follow the link or peek below the fold for more:


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The New Statesman – Our Man in Blackburn

The New Statesman – Our man in Blackburn (by Paul Routledge)

Paul Routledge meets the ex-ambassador who wants to bring down the Foreign Secretary

Craig Murray, our troublesome former man in Tashkent, is at a loss to understand why he has not been charged under the Official Secrets Act. After all, he has disclosed secret diplomatic despatches from his time in the Uzbek capital, exposing torture and human rights abuses under the regime of President Islam Karimov – abuses that the Foreign Office ignored. And he’s still spilling the beans: for good measure, the Khanabad military base, run by the US on the outskirts of Karshi, which is supposed to have only two air force squadrons and 1,200 ground troops, has “more of both, not acknowledged publicly. It’s enormous, and it’s intended to be permanent.”

Now, sacked by the Foreign Office for speaking out against tyranny, Murray is investing some of his ?315,000 pay-off to stand as an independent candidate against the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, in his Lancashire seat of Blackburn.


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Boston Globe – US handling of terror suspects questioned

Boston Globes – US handling of terror suspects questioned (by Farah Stockman)

WASHINGTON — The former British ambassador to Uzbekistan says that over the past three years, the United States has routinely handed over dozens of low-level terrorism suspects to Uzbekistan, an authoritarian regime that systematically uses torture to obtain terrorist confessions during interrogations.

The former ambassador, Craig Murray, also contends that the CIA and the British intelligence agency MI6 routinely cited information in their regular intelligence briefings that has been passed on by Uzbek authorities and was almost certainly obtained under torture.


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Criticism of the ‘war on terror’ not acceptable in the civil service

Nouse – Taking a stand against human rights abuses: From a British perspective, Mr. Murray observes that a “terrible thing happened in the Civil Service” following the September 11th attacks. Criticism of the new ‘war on terror’, he argues, is increasingly unacceptable within a Civil Service that is no longer impartial. He ascribes this particularly to the close cooperation between the Blair government and the Bush administration.

His criticism of Labour also extends to issues of civil liberties within the U.K. Discussing the new anti-terror legislation proposed by the Home Secretary Charles Clarke, he asks: “who’s seen the emergency?” Adding that “nobody in the U.K. has ever been killed by an Islamic terrorist”, he likens the situation to a “case of the emperor’s new clothes”. His suspicion at the justification offered for abuses of human rights both abroad and at home is all too evident. We have, he argues, “lost all perspective of legality in international relations”. This is a grim assessment to be made by a man who until last year was responsible for high-level diplomacy.

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Channel 4 – Torture; the dirty business (link updated 13.11.05)

Channel 4’s shocking documentary, “Torture; the dirty business” was broadcast on Tuesday 1 March 2005. In the documentary, Craig Murray talks in detail about the torture cases he investigated as Britain’s Ambassador to Uzbekistan, and his objections to the use by the UK government of information gained by the Uzbek authorities through torture.

To view the documentary click here. Its a large file so please be patient! (RealPlayer required).

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Sunday Herald – Ex-ambassador slams Straw over torture

BBC Sunday Herald – Ex-ambassador slams Straw over torture (by Alan Crawford)

FOREIGN Secretary Jack Straw has abandoned all pretence of an ethical foreign policy, and the government’s condemnation of torture “doesn’t mean anything”, a former British ambassador has told the Sunday Herald.

Craig Murray, the former ambassador to Uzbekistan who last week announced he would stand against Jack Straw in the general election, was speaking after receiving ?315,000 in red undancy pay from the Foreign and Commonwealth Off ice. He insists the pay-off means he has been exonerated of misbehaviour in speaking out about human rights abuses in the former Soviet republic and accusing the UK government of using intelligence obtained by torture.

“The UN has said torture is widespread and systematic in Uzbekistan. But the Uzbeks know fine that their security services are passing on to the CIA and MI6 the results of the torture, and they’re lapping them up,” Murray said.

“So even though the Foreign Office will tell you, ‘Oh, we have condemned torture in Uzbekistan’, it doesn’t mean anything, because by accepting the intelligence you are tipping them the wink to carry on.”

He added: “I think Jack Straw has chucked any notion of an ethical foreign policy completely out of the window.”

Murray, 46, a Scot and graduate of Dundee University, also criticised the Home Office decision to place suspects under house arrest without trial on the basis of intelligence reports, saying that the reliability of evidence obtained under torture was “questionable”.

“One thing that’s so horrible about this whole thing is that this kind of evidence obtained under torture is the kind of material that’s being used to keep these poor people locked up for three years without trial and without charge on the basis on intelligence reports,” he said.

“What they don’t tell you is that that was probably some poor bugger in prison in Egypt with electrodes on his testicles, screaming in agony, who named a name to try and stop the torture.”

Murray has been a controversial figure since late 2002, when, just a few months after taking up his posting, he publicised his fears that “brutality” was rife in Uzbek jails and highlighted a case where two men had been boiled to death.

In March 2003 he was summoned to the Foreign Office, where, he says, he was told that “yes, [intelligence] may be obtained under torture, but provided we didn’t specifically ask for the individual to be tortured or do the torturing ourselves, that’s not illegal. And that Jack Straw had personally considered the matter and the security services decided this was useful material, so we should keep getting it and I should shut up.”

He did not, and later faced a disciplinary hearing on unrelated allegations of financial corruption, being drunk on duty and having sex with Uzbek women in return for UK visas. He was subsequently exonerated, but not before he suffered a nervous breakdown .

The only explanation for the allegations, he claims, was that the Foreign Office “simply invented them to scare me into resigning”.

Murray, who is to speak to students at Dundee University tomorrow, is to contest the Foreign Secretary’s Blackburn seat at the general election .

“I’ll be standing as an independent under the slogan ‘No to George Bush’,” he said. “If people want to send a strong message of disquiet about the government’s foreign policy, there’s no better way to do that than to unseat Jack Straw.”

Murray is hard on Straw, but harder still on the US. He accuses the US campaign to spread democracy worldwide of “total hypocrisy” in supporting client states which practise torture, such as Uzbekistan .

Islam Karimov, the Uzbek president, was largely ignored by the West until after 9/11, since when he has been supported by Washington.

” The Uzbek regime is very substantially propped up by the Americans,” Murray said. “It receives hundreds of millions of dollars a year in American aid, including military aid and aid to its security services. It has several thousand US troops in the country. ”

Murray said the US risked creating a fundamentalist Isla mic state by supporting Karimov. “People don’t see any means of opposition except for the underground Islamic movement. I think by our stupid support for the dictatorship we are going to create a radical Islamic movement where there wasn’t much of one before,” he said.

“Iran under the Shah is a good example, where the West was backing the Shah despite the fact he was ultra-unpopular, and an Islamic movement grew up which was terribly anti-Western. I fear the same will happen in Uzbekistan . ”

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The Independent – A UK diplomat says Britain is part of a worldwide torture plot. Is he telling the truth?

The Independent – A UK diplomat says Britain is part of a worldwide torture plot. Is he telling the truth? (by Raymond Whitaker)

Craig Murray is a very undiplomatic diplomat. Former ambassadors are supposed to be tending their flowers in Home Counties gardens, but this one is not. He is, instead, making extraordinary allegations, the most damaging of which is that Britain is using information obtained from torture to imprison people indefinitely. So convinced is he of the truth of this and other claims that he plans to stand against his former employer, the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, at the general election.

Not for this man the emollient, languorous language normally associated with his profession. Our former ambassador in Uzbekistan is nothing if not forthright. “Unreliable information, obtained under torture in countries where it is routine, can be used against people in Britain,” he told The Independent on Sunday in his first interview since leaving the Foreign Office last week with a ?315,000 payoff. “On the basis of such information, they can be detained in Belmarsh prison or in future be put under house arrest for life. It impacts here in the UK.”

The departure of Mr Murray, 46, from the diplomatic service is the culmination of an extraordinary two-year battle with his masters. His public denunciations of the Uzbek regime, and private complaints at American and British support for it, led to a confrontation in which he was accused of drunkenness and trading visas for sex with local women, and told to “resign or be sacked”. The charges were leaked; when his marriage broke up over his relationship with a 23-year-old Uzbek hairdresser, Nadira Alieva, who now lives with him, that got out too. Now he plans to expose Britain’s “hypocrisy” in the “war on terror”.

“We have abandoned the notion of a foreign policy based on the rule of international law, in favour of one which says might is right, that there is one superpower and we’ll be its best friend,” he says. “I want to put these issues in front of the voters.”

The ex-envoy’s stand is almost the only sign of dissent in official circles over Britain’s role as America’s closest partner in the “war on terror” and the invasion of Iraq. Not only has the Government departed from European human rights law to detain foreign terror suspects without trial, it is implicated in what critics call a “web of illegality” spun by the Bush administration. The abuses at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad created a scandal, but evidence continues to emerge that this was simply the worst example of a pattern of mistreatment that extends from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to Bagram in Afghanistan and other facilities around the world, some undisclosed, in which hundreds of suspects are held in legal limbo.

The latest revelations concern the practice of “extraordinary rendition”. Using unmarked planes, the CIA is delivering prisoners to regimes which practise torture and then making use of the information produced. “There is increasing evidence that America is shipping people round the world to be tortured,” Mr Murray says. “I saw it in Uzbekistan because I happened to be there, but it’s also happening in countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia.”

Britain is unapologetic about making use of such information. The Foreign Office line is that while it totally condemns torture, it cannot rule out using any reliable intelligence, wherever it comes from, if it will save lives. But it is the reliability of the information that Mr Murray questions. In a scathing final memo to the Foreign Office, he wrote: “We receive intelligence obtained under torture from the Uzbek intelligence services, via the US. We should stop. It is bad information anyway. Tortured dupes are forced to sign up to confessions showing what the Uzbek government wants the US and UK to believe, that they and we are fighting the same war against terror … we are selling our souls for dross.”

Eight months later, he says: “What really seems to have angered them is that I was disputing the quality of the intelligence they were receiving. I began saying this at the time Britain was putting forward its dossier on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They were keen on intelligence that exaggerated the threat.” He adds that he has “a good deal of experience” in intelligence analysis. “During the first Gulf war, I worked full-time on analysing Iraq and its WMD.”

Mr Murray was Britain’s youngest ambassador when he was appointed to Tashkent in mid-2002, and it did not take him long to realise the nature of the regime. Despite the collapse of the Soviet Union, the old Communist Party boss, Islam Karimov, remains in charge of a Stalinist dictatorship which treats all devout Muslims as potential subversives, and has been known to boil prisoners alive. A couple of weeks after he arrived, the new ambassador attended a political trial, at which he met an old man. “Two of his children had been tortured in front of him until he signed a confession on the family’s links with Bin Laden,” he told the Foreign Office. “Tears were streaming down his face. I have no doubt they had as much connection with Bin Laden as I do.”

After three months he said publicly that Uzbekistan was “not a functioning democracy”. The major political parties were banned, and there were between 7,000 and 10,000 political and religious prisoners. The Americans – who were pouring money, warplanes and military personnel into Uzbekistan, valuing its position near central Asia’s huge reserves of oil and gas – were upset, but in public the Foreign Office backed him.

Behind the scenes, however, he was getting into a worsening dispute with his employers over the question of torture. In October or November 2002, he says, he saw intelligence about an Uzbek dissident, his cell and its connections with Bin Laden. “I could see from the codes that it had gone from Uzbek intelligence to the CIA, and was then issued by MI6 as part of intelligence sharing. I remembered the old man, and a light went on.” He sent his deputy to check with the CIA head of station in Tashkent whether the agency had any safeguards against receiving information obtained under torture. “He told her, yes, it probably is obtained under torture, but the CIA doesn’t see that as a problem.”

Mr Murray says he was probably naive. “I honestly thought that it was only a matter of pointing out to London how this material was sourced, and they wouldn’t have any truck with it.” But he heard nothing from the Government, which was preoccupied with the rush to war in Iraq. After several more complaints, he was summoned to London for a meeting at the Foreign Office in March 2003. He was told the information was useful and not illegal to obtain, although it could not be used in a court of law. His line manager later told him he was “unpatriotic”.

He continued to speak out about human rights in Uzbekistan until the Foreign Office accusations against him – later withdrawn – and the subsequent breakdown of his health, which kept him in London for most of the second half of 2003. When he returned to Tashkent, he says, he was determined to “keep my head down”. But after the Abu Ghraib revelations last year, which led the Foreign Office to remind its diplomats that they should report torture by allies, he discovered that a meeting in London, which he had not been told about or asked to attend, had decided to continue receiving Uzbek intelligence material.

“This is morally, legally and practically wrong,” he wrote in his final memo. “It exposes as hypocritical our post-Abu Ghraib pronouncements and undermines our moral standing. It obviates my efforts to get the Uzbek government to stop torture [if] they are fully aware our intelligence community laps up the results.” When this memo was leaked to the press, the Foreign Office argued that he could no longer stay in Tashkent.

Now he is free to pursue the issue as a private citizen, Mr Murray says: “We argue that we don’t carry out or instigate torture ourselves, but if information from it comes our way, we won’t refuse it. But in criminal law, when a known thief asks you to buy a stolen TV for ?10, it is no defence to say that I didn’t ask him to steal it and I wasn’t there when he stole it – I just bought the stolen goods.”

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Radio Free Europe: Uzbekistan: Interview With Former British Ambassador Craig Murray

Radio Free Europe – Uzbekistan: Interview With Former British Ambassador Craig Murray (by Kathleen Moore)

Prague, 18 February 2005 (RFE/RL) — Craig Murray may be one of Britain’s least diplomatic diplomats in recent memory. While ambassador to Tashkent, he spoke publicly about repression and the lack of democratic freedoms in Uzbekistan. Last year he accused the United States and United Kingdom of using intelligence gained from people tortured in Uzbekistan. And in a widely published speech in November, he criticized the United States for helping prop up what he called President Islam Karimov’s “brutal” regime. Murray was suspended from his post in October 2004 and has now taken severance pay — moves the British Foreign Office has said are not connected with his outspoken views. He now plans to run against British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in Britain’s Parliamentary election, expected in May.

RFE/RL: What’s prompted you to stand against Jack Straw in the upcoming general election?

Murray: I think that under this government Britain has moved away from the basic principles that governed foreign policy for many years, in particular support for the United Nations, support for the role of international law. And that’s really quite a serious step which the British people didn’t approve of, people didn’t approve of us entering into an illegal war against Iraq without the sanction of the UN Security Council. So I’m trying to bring that home to the foreign secretary, because he obviously carries the responsibility for foreign policy.

RFE/RL: Are you hoping to emulate Martin Bell [a former British journalist who entered politics in order to defeat a member of parliament embroiled in a corruption scandal] or is winning not the point?

Murray: I’m hoping to do a “Martin Bell” in the sense that I want to make the illegal war on Iraq, the government’s attacks on human rights at home, its failure to support human rights abroad — I’m hoping to make those key issues which get more national attention than they would otherwise. Martin Bell did the same two elections ago for the issue of sleaze, and concentrated media attention on that. I’m hoping to concentrate media attention on the issues of legality and foreign policy. So I’m hoping to emulate him in that sense, bring media attention on a relevant issue. Obviously I’d like to emulate him in terms of being elected, but that’s entirely up to the voters of Blackburn [Straw’s constituency].

RFE/RL: And you are including in those issues that you want to highlight the U.K.’s acceptance of intelligence gained under torture overseas?

Murray: That’s one of the key issues I will highlight, the fact that Jack Straw has personally sanctioned the use by the U.K. of intelligence materials obtained under torture. I came across it in Uzbekistan, but exactly the same thing is happening in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, many many countries. What is worse, people have been able to be locked up here in the U.K., detained without trial, on the basis of such intelligence, which is really a dreadful scandal. I will by trying to highlight that in the election campaign.

RFE/RL: What was it that prompted you to speak out about rights abuses while you were ambassador to Uzbekistan?

Murray: I think the brutality in Tashkent was so extreme and so all-pervasive that it was necessary to expose it. I did speak out very strongly, but for example [former U.S. Secretary of State] Madeleine Albright had made a speech in 2000 which was just as strong as anything I ever said about the regime in Tashkent. Sadly, of course, with the coming of the [George W.] Bush administration, America decided it was again going to start backing some nasty dictators who they viewed as on their side, and the American position changed, and the rest of the West was only too eager to fall in behind that noncritical support of [Uzbek President Islam] Karimov. But that was in violation of every international agreement on human rights, and I was only speaking along the lines of accepted British policy.

RFE/RL: What was the reaction of you fellow ambassadors?

Murray: I think they were pretty surprised. When I first arrived in Uzbekistan, as a new ambassador you make courtesy calls on other ambassadors. When I called on other European Union ambassadors and said to them, ‘Goodness the human rights situation here is terrible, this is a really nasty dictatorship,’ two of them said to me absolutely directly, ‘Yes we know, but we don’t mention that because they’re [Uzbekistan] close allies of the United States.’ And there was an understanding among ambassadors in Tashkent that they just pretended not to notice what was going on. That made their lives more comfortable living and working in Tashkent, they weren’t people personally fond of confrontations. And I think there was some discomfort and pique that I had brought to public attention issues that they viewed as best swept under the carpet.

RFE/RL: The United States has said it’s promoting reforms in Uzbekistan and that it has kept human rights on the agenda, withholding some aid last year because of the poor human rights record. The EU has also spoken in terms of supporting and encouraging reforms. Has this approach brought any results, do you think?

Murray: No, none whatsoever. There isn’t any reform happening. The U.S. sometimes tries to pretend there are bits and pieces of reform. For example, two years ago the U.S. ambassador was loudly proclaiming the abolition of censorship. [the U.S. ambassador said in 2002 he welcomed the move to end official media censorship, but added it was only a first step leading Uzbekistan to an open society.] In fact no such thing has happened, Uzbekistan is still 100 percent censored in its media. And when the State Department cut $12 million of aid last year because of Uzbekistan’s appalling human rights record, the Pentagon immediately gave an increase in military aid of more than twice that to make it up. [In August, General Richard Meyers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced in Tashkent that Washington would give Uzbekistan an additional $21 million to prevent the proliferation of biological weapons.] I think that the U.S. is in an absolutely disgraceful position with regard to Uzbekistan.

RFE/RL: How should the West treat the Uzbek regime?

Murray: We should treat it as a pariah regime. There is certainly no more freedom in Uzbekistan than there is in Belarus, and the regime in Tashkent is still more vicious and violent than the regime of [Belarusian President Alyaksandr] Lukashenka. And Lukashenka we’re quite happy to ostracize and bring sanctions against while we court Karimov. If you take Zimbabwe, which was named as one of [U.S. Secretary of State] Condoleezza Rice’s evil dictatorships, I have no time for President [Robert] Mugabe, but there is an opposition in Zimbabwe, and people can, at some risk, go to the polls and vote for an opposition candidate, and they do so. There is an independent judiciary in Zimbabwe whereas there is no such thing in Tashkent. Uzbekistan is certainly in the ‘Top 10’ for dictatorial regimes in the world and we should treat it as such. We don’t have any difficulty treating Mugabe and Lukashenka as pariahs, so why should we not treat Karimov in the same way?

RFE/RL: Do you think you achieved anything by speaking out?

Murray: There are individual cases of people who would be in prison today and possibly would be dead today if we hadn’t managed to act and intervene in their cases in Uzbekistan. I think there is much more international attention towards Uzbekistan. I don’t believe, for example, that the [U.S.] State Department would have made its token cut in aid if it wasn’t for the international attention that the U.K. brought to the human rights violations in Uzbekistan. So I have achieved something in at least raising an awareness of the problem in the world. But plainly I haven’t achieved any real reform in Uzbekistan because there is no sign of that.

RFE/RL: Do you have any regrets about what you did?

Murray: Obviously on a personal basis I enormously regret the loss of my career which had been extremely successful in my 20 years at the Foreign Office. I didn’t head to Uzbekistan thinking, ‘This is a good place to throw my career away.’ It wasn’t intended. I regret that, but I don’t feel I could have done anything else.

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The Guardian – Former ambassador takes redundancy

The Guardian – Former ambassador takes redundancy (by Nick Paton Walsh)

Craig Murray, the controversial former ambassador to Uzbekistan who was removed from his post, has taken a ?315,000 redundancy payment from the Foreign Office, it emerged yesterday.

Mr Murray was recalled to Britain in October after a memo was leaked to the media in which he criticised the FO’s use of information obtained under torture in Uzbekistan. He was suspended on full pay pending an investigation.

The action capped months of internal investigations in which Mr Murray was accused of being drunk at work, having sex with local girls for visas, and driving the embassy car badly. All charges were subsequently dropped.

“It’s better than a kick in the teeth,” Mr Murray said in a telephone interview. He said the money was part of “a redundancy scheme that is ongoing” in the FO, which all its employees could apply for.

While the payment does not amount to an admission of fault by the FO, Mr Murray said: “Plainly, if they felt they could have made any of the ludicrous charges against me stick they would have sacked me rather than paid me off.”

He said the FO was “very anxious” to avoid a full tribunal investigation of the charges, which would have given him the opportunity to cross-examine the foreign secretary, Jack Straw.

He said he would continue to take legal action against the FO for the damage done to his health by the stress of his ordeal.

He also announced his decision to stand for parliament against Mr Straw in his Blackburn constituency in the expected May general election.

He said: “I think that it will give people the chance to show their disapproval at the government’s foreign policy.”

In a statement he added: “Straw is the foreign secretary who was in charge of MI6 when it produced its dossier of lies on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

“Straw is the foreign secretary who saw the UK enter an illegal war against the wishes of the UN security council.

Straw is the foreign secretary who expressly agreed that MI6 should use intelligence material obtained under torture. And Straw is foreign secretary when we have slavishly sold out any ethical principles for blind support of George Bush.”

The statement added: “Many Labour supporters are angry, disillusioned or plain bewildered by this. Nationally, they still may want Labour to win. But in Blackburn they have the opportunity, by rejecting the foreign secretary, to reject this aberrant foreign policy.”

It continued: “A vote for Jack Straw is a vote for a dossier of lies. A vote is a vote for illegal war. A vote for Jack Straw is a vote for torture. A vote for Jack Straw is a vote for George Bush.”

A FO spokesman said Mr Murray had applied for redundancy and been accepted because of “compassionate and medical circumstances”, adding: “It is absolutely not paying him off.”

He said the investigation had been suspended because they were not able to interview him, for “health reasons”.

Paul Whiteman, the First Division Association official responsible for FO members, said the agreement did not contain a gagging clause and that Mr Murray would still get his FO pension.

He added: “You could say it is a very convenient solution [for the FO] … He has not got anything that his colleagues are not entitled to and is hitting the peak of what this scheme pays out.

“I think he deserves every penny.”

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Indymedia – UK Torture: Interview with Craig Murray

Indymedia – Uk torture: Interview with Craig Murray: Ex-British Ambassador to Uzbekistan (by Laurence Walker)

Q: Could you just give an overview of your current situation?

CM: I’m still suspended on full pay. That’s my official status, which is very peculiar. At least I’m still being paid, but I think they’re trying to summon up the nerve to sack me. And to do so, leaving as little comeback as possible for my lawyers to take them to court. But I’m convinced my career in the Foreign Office is finished.

Q: Would you want to go back?

CM: I don’t know. I mean, I worked for them for twenty years. Very, very successfully, on the whole. Until I went to Uzbekistan my career was a kind of model of rapid upward progress.

Q: Yes, I heard you were the youngest ever British ambassador.

CM: Yes, I don’t think that’s actually true. People say that, but I don’t believe it. Certainly now, my mate James Clarke has been appointed ambassador to Luxembourg, and he’s only 34 or something. But I don’t think I was ever the youngest ever ambassador, but I was certainly very young for an ambassador. And particularly very young for an ambassador to a country which was of some importance.

Q: In one of your first interviews as ambassador to Uzbekistan you mentioned that it was very difficult to work there. Was this something that was apparent right from the beginning, and what sort of difficulties were you facing?

CM: Well, I think I’ll start by saying, as far as I can gather, before I got there the British Embassy did very little at all. I recall, when I arrived the ambassador’s car – the flag car – was over three years old. It had only got 10,000 km on the clock – in three years! And the embassy drivers?Normally when you arrive at your post you can rely on your drivers to know where things and places are, because they’re used to going there. So places like ministries and important British companies, you just assume they’ll know where they are. Well, I found the embassy drivers didn’t know were any of the places were, because no one in the embassy had ever been outside the walls of the compound before. This idea of travelling out, and meeting people, and doing things was kind of new to them. So that was peculiar. I remember my first week, I visited a number of British companies, I visited every British company represented in Tashkent – which isn’t a great many. But several of them said they’d never been visited by a British ambassador before. They nearly all said that, and BAT (British American Tobacco) was the only one that had been visited by a British ambassador before. To me, that was truly shocking.

Q: Why do you think this is?

CM: Because the Foreign Office is full of stuck up, lazy, out-of-touch people. That’s why. I’m very bitter now! But Uzbekistan is difficult because it’s a very nasty, totalitarian dictatorship. It’s a very efficient totalitarian dictatorship. Everything that’s done is decided by central government. I recall, at one time we were arranging a cultural festival, with some concerts of British music played by a local orchestra. I was working with the orchestra on that, to help them get some examples of western-European music, because their repertoire was actually extremely limited. Their physical access to sheet music was very limited. And we discovered that anything the orchestra played had to be politically vetted as being acceptable in terms of Uzbek national ideology, which was fascinating. It was really quite amazing. It’s a completely mad totalitarian society. They even banned billiards, I remember, which struck me as peculiarly off-the-wall. As from this academic year, one day a week has to be given by all schools and universities to national education, and national education comprises three things: There’s Uzbek folk singing and dancing, there’s a very tendentious version of history – which is called Uzbek history – and there’s the study of the works of President Karimov, which is most important and the largest of the elements. It really is a weird place to live and work. It’s a kind of cloud-cuckoo-land place, in which one of the things that makes it difficult is that people lie to you all the time. The government lies all the time. Officially there’s an economic growth of eight and a half percent this year. In fact, anyone who knows anything about Uzbekistan knows there’s been negative growth for the last several years. But it doesn’t stop them throwing the official statistics at you. That’s the difficult part, as westerners, to deal with people who lie to your face, because they’re not used to that context. I mean, normally we take it for granted that when people say something to you they bare some approximation to the truth anyway. In Uzbekistan you can’t. It’s a very peculiar place to work.

Q: On the subject of Karimov, he was interviewed by a Russian news agency earlier this month, and there were a number of interesting things he was saying. For example, “External influence will be effective, only if we permit it to be effective,” – what do you make of this comment?

CM: Well, I think Karimov’s politics are essentially paranoid. He has a paranoid view of the world, and you can see the results of that in the physical closing of borders, the detonating of bridges in the Ferganna Valley so people can’t get across the border. The desire for complete control over all media and information. And anyone who meets Karimov – I’ve been with many official visitors as they call on him – he always gives the same opening spiel about how Uzbekistan is surrounded by enemies, how it’s hemmed in by the narcotics trade, the Mafia, by the Russians, by gangsters, by Chinese goods which carry influenza! He has a paranoid worldview, and I think that this dislike of the outside world is very notable. I don’t at all buy his argument that “we can’t have a western-style democracy in Uzbekistan”. Who says democracy’s western? India’s a democracy.

Q: Yes, that’s another thing he said in the interview, he said ‘the process of becoming a democracy will take years, and someone will surely volunteer to hurry us up. That is something, however, where undue haste will be harmful’?Hasn’t this been proved in Iraq? I mean, how can the western countries be of benefit to the Uzbekistan?

CM: Well, I think the argument that democracy isn’t possible, it’s difficult in some way, or not native to Uzbekistan is an argument you only hear put forward by very rich people. I’ve never heard a poor man say: “We can’t have democracy here.” The people who benefit from a lack of democracy, particularly Karimov, who’s a totalitarian dictator who’s collected hundreds of millions of dollars, stolen from the people. And his daughter has possibly even stolen more than him.

Q: Yes, could you tell me about his daughter, does she have some official government position?

CM: Yes, well her official government position is as economic adviser to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, but she’s benefited hugely from the so-called privatization process. She’s also been heavily involved in the negotiations for Gazprom (Russian gas company) to take the Uzbek gas fields, which were carved up between herself and a chap called Alisha Asmanov, who’s an ethnic Uzbek living in Russia. He’s the guy who bought a very large section of what used to be British Steel – he’s quite a well-known Mafia-type of figure. And she made a lot of money out of, for example, the mobile telephone contracts in Uzbekistan – Uzdunrobita the company’s called. She owned a 50% stake in that company and that was sold out to some Russians for about $400 million earlier this year. It wasn’t worth vaguely that, I mean what precisely the corrupt deal behind that was no one knows because it wasn’t worth nearly that. She still has a stake, of course, in Cocoa Cola Uzbekistan, which led to a famous row when she had a divorce. She’s been heavily involved in trafficking women. She owns a ‘travel’ agency, which she owns jointly with one of the younger sons of the Emir of Dubai, and that agency can issue visas for the United Arab Emirates. The travel agency itself can issue visas, and they’ve been involved in trafficking tens of thousands of Uzbek women to Dubai to work as prostitutes. That’s been a very profitable line for her. I bet your editor won’t dare to publish that!

Q: We’ll see, it depends what kind of mood she’s in. Obviously the main reason for you leaving was that you spoke out against the torture situation. There were reports of prisoners having their nails ripped out and being boiled alive. Are such extreme cases a rarity, or are they quite systematic?

CM: It’s completely systematic, and not rare at all. Thousands of people are tortured every year, undoubtedly. Attention always focuses when people are tortured to death, but that’s a tiny minority of the cases. The people who are torturing are doing so to extract information and confessions usually. In the cases of the guys who were boiled to death, they were trying to get them to sign a recantation of their faith, which is a slightly different situation. Most of the torture goes on to try to extract so-called confessions. But the last thing the torturer wants is a dead person. It gives them a lot of explaining to do, and you can’t get any more information out of them, they can’t sign anything when they’re dead. So the torture deaths only happen by accident in a tiny minority of the cases. There are thousands of cases every year of people being tortured. In the Uzbek courts, in both political and criminal cases, the conviction rate is over 99%. Over 99% of people who come to court are found guilty. I know that the conviction rate’s over 99%, it’s not a kind of estimate. We did a project on court reporting, where we worked with a lot of courts throughout the country for a couple of years. Now I can’t give you as precise a figure, but in over 90% of cases – and I would guess over 95% of cases – the accused person signs a full confession. Now you have to ask yourself why? And the reason is, the way the criminal justice system runs is the police decide who did it, then beat the hell out of them, suffocate them, dip bits of them into boiling liquid or whatever until they sign a confession. Then they’re convicted. And the same applies in cases of political and religious dissidents. About a quarter of all so-called criminal cases in Uzbekistan are actually political or religious in their motivation.

Q: A controversial accusation you made was that MI6 was using information extracted from tortured Uzbek citizens. What evidence did you actually have to lead you to this conclusion?

CM: I’ve got no doubts about it whatsoever. I’m 100 percent sure of it, and in all my dealings with the British government about it – and I’ve been called back from Uzbekistan to have meetings specifically on the subject – they have never denied it. The British government has never denied it, and scores of British reporters have phoned up the Foreign Office and said, “What is the line?” and they always come back with the same line. It’s that “it would be irresponsible to ignore useful evidence in the war against terror”. They have never said, “No, we’re not gaining evidence from torture,” – the British government has never denied it. They can’t deny it.

Q: Taking things a stage further, there was a report a little while back about the American ‘Ghost Planes’ which would take people to countries where torture was used and get information from them. Do you know anything about this?

CM: Well yes, that Gulfstream plane came in to Tashkent several times while I was there, and it’d bring in detainees. As far as I’m aware it only brought in Uzbek detainees from Bagram airport, from Afghanistan. I’ve had many people allege to me that Americans used it to bring non-Uzbek-related detainees in specifically to be tortured for questioning. I never saw any evidence of that. I’m not saying it isn’t true, but to my knowledge I only know of it bringing in detainees from Afghanistan to Uzbekistan.

Q: Well, isn’t it against the UN Convention Against Torture article 3.1 (No state party shall expel, return or extradite a person to another state where there are substantial grounds for believing that he will be in danger of being subjected to torture) whoever they were and wherever they were from?

CM: Yes it is contrary to that, undoubtedly.

Q: And did you bring this up with the American government?

CM: Yes, I mean, I asked my deputy to speak to the head of the CIA station in Tashkent. And what I said was, “I don’t want to put my foot in it here. Now it’s possible that the CIA have got a special arrangement with the Uzbek security services which makes certain that the intelligence they get wasn’t obtained under torture, maybe they have special photographs, and CIA people posted at all interrogations, and arrangements are in place. I don’t want to make a fool of myself. We need to check that this really is obtained under torture.” So she went and saw the CIA head of station in Tashkent, and this was in November 2002, and said to him, “Look, my ambassador’s worried that the intelligence you’re passing on to MI6 is probably obtained under torture, and he wants your take on whether this is possible”. And she reported back to me, absolutely no reason to disbelieve her, the CIA head of station Tashkent said: “You’re right, it will be obtained under torture. But, we don’t see that as a problem.” Yes, I’ve got no doubt at all about it.

Q: And I suppose they justify this by saying it’s part of the War on Terror?

CM: Yes, but the War on Terror seems to justify any ablations of human rights whatsoever.

Q: Yes, I was quite interested to see Condoleeza Rice naming the ‘outposts of tyranny’, which obviously don’t include Uzbekistan. They’re Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Burma and Belarus.

CM: I think it’s fascinating that the Americans are much harder on human rights in Kazakhstan, which although bad, isn’t nearly as bad as Uzbekistan. It’s quite amazing really, and the Americans amaze me with their hypocrisy.

Q: Is it something to do with the huge business possibilities in Kazakhstan? Are they trying to clean it up?

CM: Yes, I think their attitude towards anywhere depends on what’s best for the American oil and gas interests in effect. And I think that American oil and gas interests weren’t doing as well as they’d wanted in Kazakhstan so they then hit the country over the head with the human rights stick in an effort to loosen it up, with that motive. I think that’s certainly true. Uzbekistan they want to keep sweet because their airbase is seen as central to their policy of military domination of the oil and gas regions. So that’s why. But I think for Condoleeza Rice to name those countries, did she name Zimbabwe?

Q: Yes, that was one of the ones.

CM: Well, in Zimbabwe, for example, they’ve got a very unpleasant government but it doesn’t practice torture on anything like the scale that Karimov does, and there is an opposition. They’ve just had democratic elections in Uzbekistan, so-called, and the opposition weren’t allowed to contest them. I saw a most wonderful statement from the American ambassador, a load of pious rubbish, where he applauded the elections as a step on the road to democracy, and then at the end said it was unfortunate that the opposition weren’t allowed to take part! But I mean, in Zimbabwe, at least the opposition can actually stand in elections and there are actually opposition members of parliament, there is an independent judiciary. There are none of those things in Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan is, by any measure, a much worse dictatorship than Zimbabwe, and Condoleeza Rice is just talking, well, crap.

Q: On the subject of the Uzbek elections, obviously the OSCE were less than impressed with the way it was run, and one of Karimov’s answers to this was that it didn’t matter what the OSCE said anyway. To what extent is he right? I mean, how much weight does an OSCE report really have?

CM: He’s completely right, because the member governments don’t have the political will to actually do anything about it. The OSCE has to face up, at some stage, to the question of, ‘What does it do about including in its membership countries which fundamentally just don’t believe in the basic tenets of the OSCE’. It’s a question that can’t be ignored forever. And anyone who believes that democracy will come by pandering to Karimov gradually over a ten or twenty-year period is talking rubbish. There has been no progress whatsoever in the last five years, so why would anyone expect any to come now?

Q: And where does the British government stand?

A: I think when it comes to the War on Terror the British government doesn’t have its own policy. It’s simply following United States policy. It’s policy is to stay in line with the United States, or as Tony Blair would put it, ‘To stay shoulder to shoulder with the United States’ – even when the United States is very obviously acting appallingly.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

A: My immediate plans?I intend to stand against Jack Straw in his Blackburn constituency. Just to annoy him. And to bring home this question of complicity with dictatorships, complicity with torture in the War on Terror, because Jack Straw himself personally took the decision to use Uzbek torture-based intelligence. It was put to him, he discussed it. He discussed it with the head of MI6 and they decided they would continue using it. So I want to hold him accountable for that, and to make sure that the electors and his own constituency know all about it. I’m not anticipating being elected I should hasten to say. You can be the first people to publish that!

Q: You’ve almost finished writing a book on your experiences over the last two years, but what else are you doing, or planning to do, at present?

CM: I do a number of lectures, and I’ve got a few more lined up The book is going to be the main thing. And there are a couple of major television documentaries coming out in the spring, on the torture issue. I’ve already pre-recorded quite long interviews for those. I did an appearance on ‘Hard Talk’, so I’m continuing to do quite a lot of media and broadcast work. It’s not something I intend to let drop.

Q: And in the long term would you like to return to Uzbekistan?

CM: Oh yes, I love the country. I love the people, generally. I’ve got lots of good friends there. I fully intend to go back once we’ve got rid of the dictatorship. But that will be some time yet. I can’t see any signs of hope on the horizon. The people get steadily poorer. It’s pretty desperate there, this winter again, with salaries months behind, no heating at all, and cold weather. There’s no sign of economic reform. And one thing I want to do is start a campaign against Uzbek cotton, because the ordinary people of Uzbekistan don’t benefit at all from the cotton. They get pressed as slave labour to pick it. Children of seven and up have to pick cotton, living in pretty awful conditions in the fields. It’s child slave labour that picks most of Uzbekistan’s cotton, and I hope to start a campaign on that issue. Uzbek cotton is still 100% state grown. Workers on state farms, who make up 60% of the population, get $2 a month. So it seems to me that a campaign against Uzbek cotton is a good idea. The difficulty is that you can’t do it by consumer boycott, because there’s no way of telling where those fibers in your shirt came from!

Unfortunately my voice recorder ran out at this stage, but I took detailed notes throughout the interview, which went on for another ten minutes or so. He spoke about his unexplained illness – heart problem – which almost killed him 48 hours after returning to Tashkent for the last time. To this day, he doesn’t know if it was the result of a deliberate attempt on his life, but believes it probably was. Whatever the reason, it has left him with a serious heart condition for which he’ll undergo major heart-surgery in March this year.

He also spoke of a protest by around 100 Uzbek citizens outside the British Embassy in Tashkent – one of the largest ever protests under Karimov’s regime – after he’d been removed from Uzbekistan for raising too many issues the British government would rather not discuss. The peaceful demonstrators were ‘dispersed’ by the Uzbek police – who severely beat them (including the women and children). Craig Murray assumes that this was at the request of the British Embassy. If you’d like any more detailed information on these extra areas, let me know and I’ll send them through.

To date, no accusations against Craig Murray of misconduct have been proved by the FCO. He remains indefinitely suspended on full pay.

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IRIN News – UZBEKISTAN: Interview with Craig Murray, former UK ambassador

IRIN News – UZBEKISTAN: Interview with Craig Murray, former UK ambassador

ANKARA, 18 Nov 2004 (IRIN) – While a mission from the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) is touring Central Asia, Uzbekistan, long criticised by the international community over its poor human rights record and the practice of torture, is cracking down on independent Muslims following the terrorist attacks earlier this year and the situation is not likely to improve, Craig Murray, former UK ambassador to Tashkent, told IRIN in an interview on Thursday.

Murray, who served in Central Asia’s most populous country for more than two years, said that the Uzbek government was giving very few economic opportunities to its 25 million odd population, a situation likely to cause more violent reaction to the government’s harsh policies.

QUESTION: Human rights abuses in Uzbekistan have been well documented by international organisations, but what additional information do you have to add to the picture based on your experiences as British ambassador in Tashkent?

ANSWER: I am not sure I can add much to the excellent documentation by groups such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Pen and Forum 18 not to mention the report by Theo van Boven, UN special rapporteur on torture.

I would, however, like to see more work done on the absence of economic freedom. In particular, the system of internal movement control means that those born on state farms – 60 percent of the population – are effectively serfs.

The widespread use by the state of forced child labour in the cotton harvest also should be highlighted further. This is one area [where] I would like to see the UN take a much more active role.

Where I could help on the ground was in interpreting events. For example, the US has praised certain areas of so-called progress in reform, such as the abolition of censorship or the abolition of two counts of the death penalty.

In fact, censorship is total, and while two redundant counts of the death penalty were abolished – genocide and armed aggression against another state, neither of which had ever been used – at the same time the definition of treason was expanded to include a wide range of opposition activity. The net result was that the death penalty was more, not less, active.

Q: Can anything be done by the outside world to challenge the culture of human rights abuse you have referred to on a number of occasions, both while serving as ambassador and since?

A: I think the outside world has a certain leverage because Uzbekistan is party to a great many international treaties and conventions she does not respect – the UN convention against torture being one obvious example.

Furthermore, Uzbekistan is a member of a number of organisations – including the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the Asian Development Bank (ADB) – which have basic commitments to values, which Uzbekistan does not respect. Indeed, President [Islam] Karimov openly rejects so-called Western values and democracy, which are in fact universal.

So far only the EBRD has grasped the nettle of dealing with a state which fails to respect its fundamental values, but I feel that is an excellent example. It no longer will lend to Uzbekistan, except in certain highly specialised circumstances.

Q: Do you feel the West’s policy of constructive engagement with Tashkent had produced any positive results or do you feel it has stalled reform?

A: The economy of Uzbekistan is getting worse and repression gets harsher and harsher. I do not see, therefore, how the West can claim engagement has worked. I recall a meeting this year where the US Ambassador said the US had many full-time advisers in Uzbek economic ministries. I said that left two choices – either their advice was not being followed, or they were giving rubbish advice.

With its extraordinary economic policy of clamping down on private economic activity and closing its borders to trade, I think aid from the US, Japan and the ADB in particular has been essential in propping up the Karimov regime.

Equally important has been the fulsome political support for Karimov from all the senior figures in the US administration, from Bush down. To support such a vicious dictatorship can never be right and as the Tashkent regime tortures innocent Muslims, US support for him can only increase hatred for the West in the Islamic world.

Q: The jury is still out on who was responsible for the March bombings in Tashkent and Bokhara, the authorities were quick to label the attacks as the work of religious extremists. Now hundreds of young Uzbeks are being branded Islamic radicals and tried accordingly. What, in your view, was behind the bombings, and are we likely to see more such attacks?

A: Growing poverty, lack of economic opportunity and the absence of any democratic opportunity for change, or even any opportunity to express their views peacefully, has driven many young people to despair in Uzbekistan. This is made worse as many have seen family members unjustly imprisoned and tortured.

We cannot therefore be surprised that some are driven to violence. I condemn violence completely, but a regime as brutal and kleptocratic as Karimov’s will always provoke some violent reaction.

I believe that the March bombings were carried out by young Muslims. But I have researched this carefully – I personally visited all the bomb sites within a couple of hours of the blasts. I have spoken to witnesses and families of both alleged perpetrators and victims. From this I know that the young activists were very heavily penetrated by the Uzbek security services and there is a reason to believe this was an agent provocateur operation – which is probably why ordinary policemen, not political figures, were attacked.

The extreme repression of the Uzbek regime means that often underground radical Islam is the only opposition to Karimov that young people encounter, so it looks to them an attractive option. The west should transfer all the resources it spends on the Karimov regime into promoting a democratic alternative – for example by funding analogue television programming in from powerful transmitters in neighbouring countries, and through very substantial funding and training for the democratic opposition. Otherwise

more violence is inevitable.

Q: Despite its size and resources, Uzbekistan remains one of the poorest of the countries that used to make up the Soviet Union. What are the causes of this poverty and what impact is it having at a grassroots level, particularly in rural areas?

A: Uzbekistan has taken the worst features of the Soviet command economy and ratcheted up the pressure still further to ensure that only a tiny minority of the elite reaps major economic benefits and maintains political control.

Increasing poverty is measurable in poor diet, increasing health problems, decreasing literacy, especially among females, and a sharp decline in ownership of consumer durables. Rural families often have lost all household goods now to buy food. The result is rapid radicalisation of the population. I predict increasing agrarian tension and violence in the next 12 months.

Q: In a recent speech in London you spoke about the alarming levels of heroin now transiting through Uzbekistan, why do you think that is and what are the consequences for the country if the trade is not curbed?

A: Uzbekistan is not just a transit country, but heroin usage is also rapidly increasing. Among young people in Samarkand and Bokhara in particular – on the transit route – it is epidemic. Consequences include increasing crime and HIV. In these towns youth unemployment is about 60 percent (the Uzbek government says 0.5 percent!).

The major problem is that senior members of the regime are personally engaged in narcotics trafficking, rendering useless all the money the West and the UN is spending on equipment and training for Uzbek customs.

Government vehicles and the vehicles shuttling back and forth between the regime and general [Rashid] Dostum [in northern Afghanistan] carry the narcotics – and these vehicles are not stopped by customs. The small amount of interception of private smugglers might be characterised as eliminating the competition.

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BBC Radio 4 – Today Programme – Ambassador speaks out

BBC Radio 4 Today Programme – Ambassador speaks out (by Sanchia Berg)

Click here to hear the interview with John Humphries

The British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray has spoken to the Today Programme after he was ordered back to London by the Foreign Office.

Craig Murray took up his post in Uzbekistan in 2002. Then aged 43, he was the youngest serving British ambassador. He had served previously as a senior diplomat in Africa and Poland,as well as in London.

From his very first speech, in the Uzbek capital Tashkent, Craig Murray was drawing attention to human rights abuses. In autumn that year, he accused his Uzbek hosts of “boiling people alive” to extract confessions. He says his criticism of human rights was endorsed by Foreign Office in London.

Uzbekistan, a former Soviet republic, is still ruled by the man who was First Secretary of the Communist Party. There is no effective freedom of speech, no functioning democracy, according to human rights groups.

But in summer 2003, it was reported that efforts were under way to remove Craig Murray. It was suggested his criticism of the Uzbek regime had antagonised the American government. They’ve described Uzbekistan as a key ally in the war against terror. Radical islamic groups are active in the state: Uzbek nationals have been captured fighting in neighbouring Afghanistan. There is a US military base there and the US provides aid.

Craig Murray says he has no evidence the Americans influenced the Foreign Office. He says senior officials summoned him back to London, presented him with allegations about “unambassadorial behaviour” and gave him a week to resign. He had a breakdown, the allegations were later dropped, and he returned to his post after an extended convalescence.

But after one of his internal telegrams to London was leaked this week, the Foreign Office announced his recall, saying that he longer had the confidence of ministers and colleagues. Craig Murray insists he did not leak the telegram. He says though he was removed because of his comments in such internal correspondence.

He’d criticised the security services for making use of intelligence provided by the Uzbek government -which had been forwarded to the CIA and then to MI6. He said the intelligence was obtained by torture and was “dross”. To use it would be “morally legally and practically wrong”. He claims his removal shows that dissent is no longer tolerated within the Foreign Office – that it is being “politicised”.

The Foreign Office said in a statement that Mr Murray had been withdrawn not on disciplinary, but on operational grounds, and the charge of politicisation of the Foreign Office and the suppression of open discussion is completely without foundation.

The statement said: “He has been withdrawn as ambassador in Tashkent for operational reasons. It is no longer possible for him to perform effectively the full range of duties required in the conduct of our relations with Uzbekistan. In order for him to be able to do this, he has to be seen to be working in close co-operation with and enjoy the full confidence of colleagues and ministers. That is no longer the case.”

Mr Murray remains a member of the diplomatic service and will be allocated new duties “in due course”, said the Foreign Office.

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