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Nato Expansion and Turkey 312

I am in Turkey because, if there is to be movement in ending the war in Ukraine, it will happen here. President Erdogan’s firm stance on a potential veto of Swedish and Finnish NATO membership is framed in public only in relation to perceived support by those countries for Kurdish resistance groups. But of course it goes much deeper.

Erdogan understands that the spectacular advance by NATO eastward that Finnish enlargement in particular would represent, is a slap in the face for Putin that will make a peace deal in Ukraine far more difficult. Any such deal would have to be based upon Russia giving up some of the Ukrainian territory it holds today. Dramatic NATO expansion is the very opposite of an attempt to create the conditions for that. In fact, that NATO is so actively pursuing this expansion is sufficient evidence that NATO is looking for a long proxy war to bleed Russia, rather than trying to restore peace and stability to Europe.

That the European public are gripped by a wave of emotion over Ukraine was amply demonstrated by the popular vote of tens of millions in the Eurovision song contest. Once the spasm dies down, opinion in Finland and Sweden may revert. It has been obvious for over a decade that Putin has an aim to reintegrate Russian populated areas of the former Soviet Union into the Russian Federation. That agenda is currently causing a ruinous war, but is no military threat to Finland or Sweden.

Turkey retains the prestige of chosen venue and perhaps broker for continuing diplomatic contact between Russia and Ukraine. Erdogan’s robust stance on Finland and Sweden is necessary to maintain Russian trust. Turkey of course has its own lengthy and extremely complex historical and current relationship with Russia, which is much more important than Turkey’s role as a key NATO member might suggest. It is also worth bearing in mind that Turkey is a far more serious military power than Finland and Sweden combined.

There is another, specifically Turkish interest in play here, which is very much a factor in Erdogan’s willingness to stand up to Biden over Swedish and Finnish NATO entry. This of course relates to the permanent tension between NATO members Turkey and Greece.

Turkey is furious over the militarisation of the Eastern Aegean Greek Islands very close to its shores, and the lack of support and understanding it has received from other NATO members over the perceived threat.

The status of Greece’s most Eastern (Dodecanese) islands is not in doubt. It was established by the Treaty of Paris in 1947, to which all the permanent members of the UN security council, and many other states, are parties.

The demilitarisation of the islands is unequivocal, and no treaty since has negated it.

Other Greeks islands including Limnos and Lesbos slightly further West are similarly constrained by the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. Greece claims this status was modified subsequently by the 1936 Straits Convention. I don’t think that is right but that is a more complex argument than we need to develop just now. The 1947 Treaty is not modified.

Yet Greece had proceeded and is still proceeding with the militarisation of the Dodecanese islands on a large scale, involving tens of thousands of troops in total, military aircraft, and in particular long range surface to surface missiles. Turkey and Russia both regard these as a threat. The Turkish government are privately convinced that this militarisation is being carried out with active United States cooperation, participation and perhaps instigation.

In February, President Erdogan stated that as the Treaties specifying demilitarisation are the very Treaties which give sovereignty over the islands to Greece, then if Greece was repudiating the treaties it brought sovereignty into question. Erdogan was immediately slapped down by the Biden administration.

So Turkish resentment at US behaviour in the Aegean, seen as encouraging a direct military threat, is another reason why Erdogan is not anxious to defer quickly to the US agenda in the Baltic. Turkish exasperation is further fueled by the fact that this really is bad faith by the USA, in refusing to abide by an international treaty to which it is a party (a position complicated by the fact Turkey itself is not a party to the Treaty of Paris 1947).

I have found this last 17 years of blogging that it only takes a little background knowledge, a little research, and a few affable conversations, to find a picture far more complicated and realistic than that carried in the mainstream media. Sadly there are few left in the mould of Robert Fisk.

Speaking of which the most important piece of UK journalism this year is being totally ignored by the mainstream media. Please do read it; you will learn more about how the UK really works than you ever will from the BBC.

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What Might A Ukraine Peace Agreement Look Like? 418

Currently nobody in power wants peace. Both sides believe they might yet improve their position on the ground. Thousands are needlessly dying horrible deaths in Europe. But the West now has a proxy war with Russia itself that is weakening Russia militarily, economically and diplomatically. Putin has to keep going, hoping to show something he can portray as victory and worth all the pain. Meantime the arms manufacturers and related interests are profiting enormously – and never forget that applies to both sides.

NATO is cock-a-hoop with probable expansion to include Sweden and Finland. That is one of very many ways in which Putin’s war is counterproductive for Russia and makes its strategic problems worse.

The most alarming aspect of all this is the blithe brinkmanship with which the West is pushing Putin towards a position where his only chance of claiming victory is to use tactical nuclear weapons. [And yes I have read Scott Ritter, I both know and like him but think he is very wrong about Russian ground superiority].

It does not have to be nuclear Armageddon. There is a more likely scenario where the war carries on for years, and probably Russia inflicts increasing damage on cities with long range weapons. That would be unlikely to involve radical change from current frontlines; we could have hundreds of thousands of casualties over as much as three to five years. I believe this is what NATO actually want to happen. It would in effect leave a frozen conflict looking not too different to today, but with much more destruction.

This is the time that true statesmen would be trying to end the conflict. The only person who in the least appears to have been making genuine efforts is Macron, for which he is reviled. The UN evidently judge it too early to talk about more than ceasefires and humanitarian corridors. Do not be discouraged by or critical of that. These “confidence building measures” – ceasefires, evacuations, prisoner exchanges, humanitarian relief – are how conflict resolution classically starts.

So, if I were in the UN working on an outline peace proposal, what would it look like? Well, here are some first thoughts.

Now I know some people will ask why anybody should look at any proposals from me. Well, plainly I have no current standing. But I do have experience. Together with then Head of UN Peacekeeping, my late friend Kofi Annan, I while Head of Cyprus Section at the FCO drafted the Cyprus peace plan that we then took into proximity negotiation with Denktash and Clerides. We did not have total success but the process did contribute to the island’s current peace and prosperity.

Further as UK Representative to the Sierra Leone Peace Talks, I was deeply involved in the drafting and the negotiation with all sides of the Sierra Leone Peace Accord, as detailed at length in my book The Catholic Orangemen of Togo. That conflict probably had more casualties than the Ukraine War to date and was just as bitter, with its own extremely complicated history and causes.

So in suggesting ideas for the draft of a “Peace Plan”, this is something I have done in “real life”, not just a fool opining from his armchair. For that look to some of my other posts!

The first and most difficult question is territory, as it is in most armed conflict. Russia currently occupies large areas of Ukrainian territory. This is a powerful negotiating position. Ukraine has recovered significant ground around Kiev following that particular defeated attack, and smaller parcels elsewhere. In the last couple of weeks, gains and losses by both sides have been broadly in balance, though Western media emphasises the Ukrainian gains.

If we are starting from broadly the current territorial position, my basic proposal would be this. Ukraine formally cedes Crimea to Russia, and Russia hands back all other Ukrainian territory, including the Donbass.

This gives Putin a boast he can make to his people – the World, which had refused to recognise the Russian annexation, would now have bowed to Russia’s rule. The US, UK, Germany, all had been made to acknowledge Crimea is Russian and to eat humble pie. It would play well for Putin.

On the other hand, neither the West nor Ukraine would really have lost anything at all but pride. It would simply be bringing the de jure and de facto in line, which is generally a good thing. Few seriously believe the Ukrainian army is going to be able to retake Crimea. To do so would indicate an extremely bloody war, with very serious potential to escalate to the nuclear.

Crimea is in practice now Russian. It makes sense to base a peace deal on acknowledging this reality.

Is Crimea enough of a prize for Putin to give up all of Russia’s other gains? I believe so. There is a realistic chance that Russia could suffer humiliating loss of some of the areas it holds. Much better to negotiate them away while you have them.

Could Zelensky survive giving up the Crimea? Well, his personal prestige is now enormous. His people are brave but would welcome an end to the war, and the number of Ukrainians still in Crimea is now low. In return for getting back all of the Donbass lost in 2014 plus Kherson and Mariupol, and getting an end to the war, I think it is not impossible for Zelensky to sell giving up the Crimea as the price of peace.

The Donbass was of course Putin’s given reason for invasion. It would be hard for Putin to give up Donbass because it is central to his consistent programme of bringing Russophone areas of ex-Soviet states into Russia. But his domestic position in a long war would weaken if not successful. Given guarantees on Crimea and an end to ruinous war and sanctions, I think he could accept it after negotiation, with a number of figleafs.

It is worth noting that a bilateral agreement is not possible. Any agreement is going to need to involve a much wider group of parties, on for examples the lifting of sanctions and recognition of Russian annexation of Crimea.

So here is a start to my proposed bundle:

Ukraine to cede Crimea to Russia
Russia to hand back all other occupied Ukrainian territory
A devolution settlement for Donbass
Russian again to be an official language in Ukraine
Ukraine to be acknowledged as a sovereign state free to join NATO or EU if it chooses
An Arms Control Treaty restricting weapons systems in Ukraine and neighbouring Russia
An end to all EU and US sanctions on Russia imposed following the invasion
A joint War Crimes Commission, and Truth and Reconciliation process, but immunities for agreed persons (including Putin)
An international fund for reconstruction, including provision for relocation assistance for Russian speakers wishing to leave Donbass or Ukrainians wishing to leave Crimea.

Now here is the moral dilemma. If you want to insist on no immunity for war crimes, you would need to be willing to pursue total war to the utter defeat of one side. You cannot get a peace deal that involves putting Putin on trial at the Hague. Equally neither side can get all it wants on any subject without total victory.

Peace otherwise means compromise.

When discussing Cyprus with Kofi Annan, we agreed any peace deal would involve Turkey giving up some land in proportion to its percentage of population. The possibilities were Morphou or Karpass. We realised that this land deal would need to entail some assistance with population relocation of those who wished to move. It is often impossible to resolve a geographic conflict without some element that can be portrayed as endorsement of ethnic cleansing. These are the problems of peace.

I do hope that gives you some material for your own thought. It will no more interest the partisans on either side than it currently does those in power. Thus I sadly expect the killing to continue. I am off to Turkey tomorrow for a briefing on the limited peace talks that have taken place to date. That does not mean I will necessarily be able to spread information further at this stage.

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Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Some Off-Beat Points on Thursday’s Elections 204

The Labour Party’s national projected vote share is 35%, which is the same as the Labour Party’s national projected vote share in 2018 under Corbyn. The “Starmer surge” is a lie, broadcast by the media to perpetuate the myth that a more radical Labour Party would be uniquely unelectable. Tory switching to Lib Dems, Greens or sitting at home helped Labour, but hardly represents Starmer enthusiasm.

(Projected vote share here means an extrapolation of swing trends to areas where no election took place to give a projected total if this were a general election, done by John Curtice.)

Starmer remains the neoliberal insurance policy. But do not go out and bet on him winning the next general election. The Lib Dems look like their vote could finally be recovering from their coalition disaster to something like their “normal” level, which should see them return as the main challengers to the Tories in those parts of Southern England where people do not speak Estuary English. The Greens made real and welcome progress, though from a very low base.

Northern Ireland is the real story of the elections, and I am absolutely delighted to see Sinn Fein emerge as the largest party. It is essential that the unionist knuckle draggers are not now allowed a veto on democracy and that we see Michelle O’Neill properly installed and functioning as First Minister. It should be noted that it is not only that we saw movement from SDLP to Sinn Fein and from DUP to Traditional Unionist Violence (I might have the name slightly wrong). Adding DUP, TUV and UUP together, there was a decline of over 3% in the total unionist vote, which is highly significant.

It is also worth noting that the election has just been won by parties which broadly support the Northern Ireland Protocol with the EU. That ought to give pause to Tory efforts to abandon the Protocol, but it probably won’t. The EU, however, will undoubtedly have noted the election result and be strengthened in their opposition in any changes. The Toru hand is weakened, to say the least, given the elected Northern Irish leader is now on the EU side and not the UK side.

I have no doubt the Tories will be discussing with the unionists ways to contrive to prevent O’Neill becoming First Minister. A long period of direct rule by the ultra-unionist oaf Brandon Lewis MP may be in prospect. That will only hasten reunification.

In Wales, Plaid Cymru continue to make steady progress and the more left wing platform of Mark Drakeford continues to outperform Starmer in voter appeal.

As for Scotland – well I remain personally a member of the Alba Party, which continues to make no significant electoral impression. Voters maintain faith in Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP increased its number of councillors significantly. It was also a breakthrough for the Scottish Greens, if from a low base. The net result however is a significant net advance for pro-Independence parties over unionists. That is more important than Labour overtaking the Tories for second place. The alternative to Independence is Westminster rule by Tories. Scottish Labour is irrelevant to that.

After the election Nicola Sturgeon immediately started to make plain there is not going to be an Independence referendum in 2023. This is what she said:

“Look, the Alba Party didn’t register, I didn’t think it would register, I don’t think it’s ever going to register. You know, however much they may want there to be the groundswell of frustration with the SNP over progress to Independence, there’s not. Equally, I think sensible people know that however impatient they may be for Independence, there is no magic solution to make it happen, and you know Alba have actually been perpetuating a fiction on that, so I am not surprised… For me, my job is to get on with leading the SNP, leading Scotland and yes, I hope, leading the country towards Independence.”

Progress “towards” Independence is reduced to a “hope”. I defy anybody to claim those are the words of somebody who is about to launch an Independence referendum. She did not say “Alba are talking nonsense, there will be an Independence referendum next year as stated in our manifesto for the Scottish parliament.” Her words convey the opposite impression.

I would particularly ask you to note the major difference between “towards” – as opposed to “to” – in Sturgeon’s last sentence. That is not an accident.

Instead she positively scoffs at “impatience” and derides the notion that Independence can be quickly attained. The “fiction” which she says Alba are perpetuating is the claim – correct in international law – that Westminster has no veto on Scottish Independence. Sturgeon’s position remains that a referendum cannot be held without Boris Johnson’s say-so, which she knows will not be forthcoming.

Sturgeon seems supremely confident that her latest electoral success endorses her approach. That I think is the key question in Scotland after these elections. It is a question to which I do not know the answer.

Are the SNP voters, like Sturgeon herself, only paying lip service to the idea of Independence without being really concerned to attain it? Is voting SNP a kind of nationalist gesture with no real meaning, a never-ending journey “towards” Independence? Or is it that SNP voters have not noticed that the plausible Sturgeon is just stringing them along with no actual intention of reaching the destination?

I had fondly imagined that SNP voters would “see through” Sturgeon. But is her cosy nationalist posturing, as a colonial governor making a licensed show of nationalist thinking, all that SNP voters really desire?

I think the crunch point will come when she does, eventually, officially abandon the 2023 Indyref date. She will manage that to make it appear Johnson’s decision and then call for yet another “mandate” in the 2024 Westminster elections. I can see clearly what is unfolding, but it seems so far a charade which voters are happy to support.

On a happy note of karma, a notable swing in Glasgow from the SNP to the Greens saw Rhiannon Spear and Mhairi Hunter, two important Sturgeonites, lose their council seats. Both played a crucial role in the jailing of Manni Singh for starting a demonstration a few hours late.

As for Alba, I don’t know if I shall remain a member. There needs to be a vehicle for those for whom Independence is the genuine and overriding political priority, and plainly the SNP is no longer that party. But the ferocity and unkindness of Alba’s stance on trans people – and the extraordinary priority it puts on the issue in campaigning – is something with which I am entirely out of sympathy. I don’t expect to agree with every policy of a party which I join, but this is really very difficult for me. I shall await developments following these sobering elections.

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Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Donziger: A Tale For Our Times 97

Texaco operations in Ecuador from 1962 to 1994 dumped 70 billion litres of “wastewater”, heavily contaminated with oil and other chemicals, into the Amazon rainforest, plus over 650,000 barrels of crude oil. They polluted over 800,000 hectares.

It is one of the worst ecological disasters in history — 30 times greater than the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska and 85 times greater than the Gulf of Mexico spill by British Petroleum (BP) in 2010. During the supposed clean up in the provinces of Sucumbios and Orellana, before it left Ecuador, Texaco hid over a thousand different swamps of toxic waste throughout the rainforests, dumping a layer of topsoil over them.

Crude contaminates the Aguarico 4 oil pit, an open pool abandoned by Texaco after 6 years of production and never remediated.

Texaco was taken over by Chevron in 2000. Chevron claims that Texaco only ever extracted $490 million in profit from Ecuador over 30 years. The accounting of that is hotly contested by the Amazon Defense Coalition which claims Texaco made $30 billion profit. One thing for sure is that even the Chevron figure is at historic values, not real terms, and would be worth vastly more today.

The cost of the pollution to the inhabitants of the Amazon is incalculable in simple monetary terms, as is the cost of the environmental catastrophe to the entire world. However in the mid 1990’s Ecuador was firmly under the United States heel and – as Chevron’s legal team assert – in 1995 the Government of Ecuador was persuaded to sign a ludicrous clean-up agreement with Texaco as it left the country, releasing it from all legal obligations at a cost of just US $40 million.

Yes, that really is just $40 million. Compare that to the $61.6 billion that BP paid out for the almost 100 times smaller Deepwater Horizon environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. In 1998 the corrupt, US controlled, government of Ecuadorean President Jamil Mahuad signed a final release relieving Texaco for all liability from economic pollution. That release has now been upheld by the Court of International Arbitration in the Hague.

How this was achieved by Chevron/Texaco is well explained in a book I highly recommend, a copy of which was sent to me in prison by a supporter:
The Misery of International Law by Linarelli, Salomon and Sornarajah (Oxford University Press 2018).

A Chevron lobbyist in 2008 said that “we can’t let little countries screw around with big companies like this”. At the time of this writing, Chevron is the fourth largest company headquartered in the United States, operating in over one hundred countries, with gross revenues twice that of Ecuador’s GDP. When Texaco began operations in Ecuador in 1964, the country was unstable and extremely poor, with bananas as its main export. One lawyer who works for Oxfam had argued that “Texaco ran the country for twenty years. They had the US Embassy in their pocket. They had the military. Politically, there was no way that Texaco was going to be held accountable in Ecuador.” At the time Ecuador needed Texaco’s expertise and technology if it was to extract the oil. The lawsuit alleged that Texaco dumped 18 billion gallons of toxic waste into the water system in the region, along with 17 billion gallons of crude oil, and left 916 clearly visible unlined toxic waste pits full of black sludge throughout the region. At the time, Texaco’s operations did not violate Ecuadorean law. Ecuador had no real environmental law at the time. While Chevron vigorously contests the facts, the evidence shows that Texaco failed to use environmentally sustainable technologies in its operations in Ecuador. As the former Ecuador Ambassador to the United States Nathalie Cely has put it: “When Texaco left Ecuador, significant profits in hand, it left unprecedented damage to the environment in its wake and no compensation to those affected.”

In my writing I always try to add value when I can by giving my own experience where relevant, and the situation described here reminds me precisely of the impunity with which Shell acted in Nigeria in their similarly massive pollution of the Niger Delta. I witnessed this close up when I was Second Secretary at the British High Commission in Lagos from 1986 to 1990. My brief was “Agriculture and Water Resources” and I therefore encountered the environmental devastation at first hand.

From my privileged diplomatic position I also saw the political power wielded by Shell in Nigeria through corruption and bribery, and I absolutely recognise the description given above of Texaco in Ecuador: “They had the US Embassy in their pocket”. In Nigeria, Shell had the British High Commission in their pocket, throughout decades in which all bar one of Nigeria’s military dictators was trained at Sandhurst, and the exception went to another British military college.

The Chairman and MD of Shell Nigeria, Brian Lavers, was treated as a deity and lived a life of extraordinary power and luxury. The British High Commissioner, Sir Martin Ewans, himself a very haughty man, deferred routinely to Lavers. I recall one occasion when the diplomatic staff were all instructed to attend a private briefing by Lavers in the High Commission. He made some dismissive and complacent comments about the “fuss” over pollution. I, a rather diffident and nervous young man on my first diplomatic assignment, very respectfully queried him on something I knew from direct observation to be untrue. I got a public ticking off from the High Commissioner followed by a massive private bollocking from my boss, and was later told that Shell made a complaint against me to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London.

So, in brief, I know of what they speak. I should add that I am still extremely upset by all of this because of the subsequent execution of Ken Saro Wiwa, whom I knew, and other indigenous environmental activists, for which I hold Shell in part culpable. 35 years since I got carpeted for raising the shocking effects, and 25 years since the executions shocked the world, Shell’s devastation of the Niger Delta continues. (see Footnote).

29 years ago, in 1993, Steven Donziger, a New York lawyer, visited Ecuador and saw communities who lived their lives with their bare feet and hands permanently covered in oil sludge and other pollutants, whose agriculture was ruined and who suffered high levels of mortality and birth defects. He started a class action against Texaco in the United States, representing over 30,000 local people. Texaco, confident that they had control of Ecuador, requested the US court to rule that jurisdiction lay in Ecuador. It also set about obtaining the agreement from the Government of Ecuador to cancel any liability. In 2002 the New York court finally agreed with Texaco (now Chevron) that is had no jurisdiction and the case moved to Ecuador, much to Chevron’s delight.

What Chevron had not bargained for was that corrupt US control of Ecuador might loosen. In 2007 left wing Rafael Correa became President and Chevron’s previously total impunity in the country dissolved. In 2011 Donziger and his team won an award of $18 billion in compensation for the local population from a provincial Ecuadorean court, later reduced to $9.5 billion by the Supreme Court of Ecuador.

Chevron now did two things. Firstly, it invoked the bribery obtained agreements of 1995 and 1998 limiting its liability to the paltry $40 million clean-up operation, and appealed to the international tribunals specified in those agreements. Chevron succeeded, as was fairly certain to happen. The agreements had indeed been signed and did relieve Texaco/Chevron of any liability.

This brings us into precisely the same area as Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements and the ability of huge multinationals to bully or bribe poorer states into signing away their sovereign authority in favour of judgement, not by a multilateral state institution like the International Court of Justice, but of a commercial tribunal formed of western corporate lawyers of strong neo-conservative ideology.

Western governments put enormous pressure on developing countries to succumb to such jurisdiction, including making it a condition of aid flows. The system is so unfair on developing countries that even Hillary Clinton inveighed against it, before she started fund-raising for her Presidential bid.

Big oil apologists are cock-a-hoop that the disgraceful, well-feathered right wing jurists of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague gave Chevron a judgement that their bribed 1998 “Get out of jail free” card did indeed say “Get out of jail free”. This case in itself damns the arbitration system. The truth is, of course, that no developing country has ever initiated surrendering its sovereignty to such a tribunal, and it is strongly in the institutional and financial interest of the tribunal and its members to find in favour of the big western corporations on which their very existence thus depends.

The second thing that Chevron did was to attempt to destroy Steven Donziger personally. In 2011 they filed a suit in New York under the anti-mob Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Act, arguing that in Ecuador Donziger had bribed a judge, bribed witnesses and plaintiffs, ghost-written the original judgement and subverted expert witnesses.

The case against Donziger now becomes an incredible tale of corrupt judges in both Ecuador and the United States, of whom the most corrupt of all is US District Judge Lewis A Kaplan. It is important to note that the case against Donziger came before Kaplan as a civil case, not a criminal case. Chevron were seeking an injunction to stop Donziger acting further against them. Originally they were suing Donziger for $60 billion in damages, but that was dropped because it would have meant Donziger had a jury. By merely seeking an injunction, Chevron could ensure that Kaplan was unconstrained.

What happened next beggars belief. Kaplan made a ruling setting aside the judgement of the Ecuadorean court on the grounds it was based on racketeering, coercion and bribery. It should be recalled that, at Chevron’s insistence, the New York District Court had nine years earlier ruled it had no jurisdiction over the case, and that jurisdiction lay in Ecuador. Kaplan now ruled the opposite; both times Chevron got what they wanted.

So who is Kaplan? From 1970 to 1994 he was in private practice, representing in particular the interests of tobacco companies including Philip Morris – itself, I would argue, sufficient sign of moral bankruptcy. He was also the “trusty” judge the federal government used to rule that years of detention and torture in Guantanamo Bay did not affect prosecutions of detainees there. On the plus side, Kaplan did allow Virginia Giuffre’s lawsuit against Prince Andrew to go ahead; but then Andrew is not a US state or commercial interest.

The only testimony of bribery and corruption which Kaplan heard came from a single source, Ecuadorean judge Alberto Guerra. He claimed he was bribed to support the local plaintiff’s case against Chevron and to ghost write the judgement with Donziger for the trial judge. No other evidence of racketeering or bribery was given before Kaplan.

Guerra was extremely unconvincing in court. In his judgement for Chevron Kaplan stated that:

“Guerra on many occasions has acted deceitfully and broken the law […] but that does not necessarily mean that it should be disregarded wholesale…evidence leads to one conclusion: Guerra told the truth regarding the bribe and the essential fact as to who wrote the Judgment.”

Guerra produced no corroboration of his story. He could not, for example, show any draft of, or work on, the judgement he had allegedly ghostwritten with Donziger. A forensic search of Donziger’s laptop found nothing either. The reason for this was to become clear when Guerra admitted, before the International Court of Arbitration, that he had invented the whole story.

Not only had Guerra invented the whole story, but he had in fact been bribed by Chevron with a large sum for his testimony. Guerra admitted that he had invented the story to Chevron of Donziger offering to buy him for $300,000, simply to raise the price which Chevron would pay him. Before giving evidence in the USA, Guerra spent 51 days being coached on his evidence by Chevron’s lawyers – which Kaplan permitted as it was a civil not a criminal case.

In 2016 the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Kaplan’s verdict for Chevron, on the grounds that Guerra’s evidence had been properly given in a US court, and it had not been recanted in any formal evidence to a US court; while Donziger could not prove, without Guerra’s testimony in court, that Guerra had been paid by Chevron.

Followers of the Assange case will of course note the parallels with Siggi Thordarson, the convicted fraudster who was paid by the CIA to give evidence against Assange that is central to the “hacking” charges under the Espionage Act, but whose open admission that he lied in his testimony the English High Court refused to hear as he has not formally withdrawn his evidence in court.

In the interests of scrupulous honesty, I should note that Chevron seem to me to have one good legal point. There was unlawful coordination between one technical expert in the case in Ecuador and Donziger’s legal team. This was motivated by genuine environmental concern and goodwill, and not by bribery, but was nevertheless unwise. I do not however believe that any reasonable judge would find this in itself sufficient to dismiss the case, given the great weight of other evidence on the pollution and its effects.

Kaplan now set out, at Chevron’s behest, to destroy Donziger as an individual. Extraordinarily in a civil case, Kaplan ruled that Donziger must turn over all of his phones, laptops and communications devices to Chevron, so they could investigate his dealings with others over the Ecuadorean case.

Donziger of course refused on the grounds that he was an attorney representing the local plaintiffs in the case, and the devices held numerous communications covered by attorney-client privilege. Kaplan ruled that the clients were not in US jurisdiction so attorney-client privilege did not apply. He then sought to institute a criminal prosecution of Donziger for contempt of court for refusing to obey his order to hand them over to Chevron.

It should be noted that by this stage Rafael Correa had retired as President of Ecuador as decreed by the constitution, and the CIA was again firmly in control through the traitorous President Lenin Moreno. Not only was Donziger entitled on absolute grounds to refuse to hand over attorney-client communication, there was now a real danger the indigenous people and other locals involved in the case might be targeted for reprisals in Ecuador by Moreno and the CIA.

There is again a startling resonance with the Assange case. When Moreno removed Assange’s diplomatic immunity, and Assange was grabbed from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London and imprisoned, all of Assange’s papers were seized by the Ecuadorean government and shipped back to Quito, where they all were handed over to the CIA. These specifically included thousands of documents relating to Assange’s defence against extradition, documents which were covered by attorney-client privilege. Again, when dealing with an “enemy of the state” like Assange or Donziger, the judges decided that this did not matter.

Let me again interpolate some personal experience. Judge Kaplan now decided to transform Chevron’s civil case against Donziger into an explicitly criminal case of contempt of court. In Scotland and throughout the UK, Kaplan could simply have declared Donziger guilty of violating his own Order and sent him to jail, precisely as judge Lady Dorrian did to me. But in the United States – as in every other democracy outside the UK – a judge cannot arbitrarily decide on a violation of their own order.

Kaplan therefore referred Donziger’s “contempt” to the federal prosecutors of the Southern District of New York. But they declined to prosecute. Here we had a civil case brought by Chevron over a decision by an Ecuadorean court which the US courts had insisted had jurisdiction, but which Kaplan had repatriated, found for Chevron on the basis of extremely dodgy evidence, and now turned into the criminal trial of an environmental activist lawyer based on a complete repudiation of attorney-client privilege. Federal prosecutors viewed none of this as valid.

So Kaplan now did something for which nobody can provide a convincing precedent. In 2020 he appointed private legal prosecutors, paid for by his court, to bring the criminal case against Donziger which the state prosecutors had declined to bring. Kaplan had personal links to the firm involved, Seward and Kissel, who had been acting for Chevron in various matters less than two years previously. During the prosecution process, Seward and Kissel as prosecutors were in constant contact with Chevron’s avowed lead lawyers, Gibson Dunn and Crutcher, over the case.

For all these reasons the Donziger case has been described as the first private criminal prosecution by a corporation in US history. Chevron’s ability to control the entire judicial and legal process has been terrifying. Every public affairs NGO you can think of, not in the pockets of big oil and climate change denial, has raised serious concerns about the case.

Contrary to convention, though not contrary to law, Kaplan also personally appointed the judge to hear the case for criminal breach of his order, rather than leaving it to the court system. His nominee, Judge Loretta Preska, committed Donziger to house arrest pending trial. On October 21 2021 she sentenced Donziger to six months in prison; the maximum for contempt of court in the USA (I was sentenced to 8 months in Scotland). After 45 days Donziger was released from prison due to Covid, to serve the rest of his sentence under house arrest. In total, before and after trial, Donziger spent 993 days in detention. He was released two days ago.

Donziger has been disbarred as a lawyer. Chevron have a lien on his home and all his assets for compensation. They have paid nothing to the victims of their pollution of the Amazon.

I really cannot think of any individual story that better incorporates so many aspects of the dreadful corruption of modern western society. We are all, in a sense, the prisoners of corporations which dictate the terms on which we live, work and share knowledge. Justice against the powerful appears impossible. It is profoundly disturbing, and I recommend everyone to take a few minutes to reflect about the full meaning of the Donziger story in all its many tangents.

There is a good interview with Steve Donziger, which understandably concentrates on the personal effect upon him, here.
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Footnote: It would be churlish of me not to mention that when Sir Brian Barder became High Commissioner in Lagos he took a different line on Shell and pollution, much to the annoyance of Tory minister Norman Tebbit. 20 years later I was eventually sacked by the FCO for an excess of dissent, and Brian and Jane immediately invited me to dinner. Brian is no longer with us but his son @owenbarder is well worth following on development issues.

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The Advocates of Death 557

There is a completely crazed article by Simon Tisdall in the Guardian – worrying its “most shared” – calling for “direct, in-country military support” by western powers in Ukraine against Russia.

While Tisdall outlines well the many catastrophic and wide-reaching effects of the Ukraine war, including tangents such as its effect on climate change, he fails completely to acknowledge the rather more obviously catastrophic possibility that direct western military intervention in Ukraine will lead to full scale nuclear war.

But strangely that is not what I find most wrong-headed in Tisdall’s article. What I find culpably unbalanced is this paragraph:

The broader, negative political impact of the war, should it rage on indefinitely, is almost incalculable. The UN’s future as an authoritative global forum, lawmaker and peacekeeper is in jeopardy, as more than 200 former officials warned Guterres last week. At risk, too, is the credibility of the international court of justice, whose injunction to withdraw was scorned by Putin, and the entire system of war crimes prosecutions.

It is as though the illegal invasion of Iraq had never happened, and had not already dealt the severe blow to the moral authority of the United Nations that helps enable Putin’s actions now. And Why is defiance by Putin of the International Court of Justice a severe blow to its credibility, but British refusal to obey its instruction to return the Chagos islands to the survivors of the British genocide there apparently was not a severe blow?

Putin is merely following British and American example. The failure of liberals like Tisdall (whom I generally respect) to acknowledge this I find infuriating. I condemn the invasion of Ukraine and I have no hesitation in calling Putin a war criminal. However for precisely the same reasons so are Bush and Blair. It astonishes me how very few people in the media are prepared, in the current emergency, to acknowledge this. That is perhaps understandable if not readily excusable. But to claim like Tisdall that Putin’s actions are somehow unique and precedent-setting goes beyond omission to active propaganda and lying.

I am returned from holiday with the family, much refreshed, and have decided to revert to the idea that not every article on this website needs to be long form or profound. Shorter, snappier pieces like this to fill the gaps between highly worked articles are also useful to keep brain cells sparking and conversation flowing.

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Calling All Rwandans: Calling All Africans 202

UPDATED: The BBC now reports UK to give asylum seekers one-way ticket to Rwanda

Some asylum seekers who arrive in the UK on small boats across the Channel will be given a one-way ticket to Rwanda, under new government plans.

Home Secretary Priti Patel is in the African nation to agree a £120m trial involving mostly single men arriving in Britain on boats or lorries.

BBC home editor Mark Easton, reporting from Rwanda, said ministers face legal hurdles and substantial costs.

Refugee organisations have criticised the plans as cruel and urged a rethink.

When the Tory government announced it was in talks with the government of Ghana over opening internment camps for asylum seekers in that country, I was quickly able to confirm with Ghanaian ministers that this was simply a lie; the subject had never been discussed and would not be discussed.

I am hoping that the same may be true of Rwanda, and the Tories may simply again be making up stories to placate their racist base. Certainly the Times reported that Johnson was this week forced to delay an announcement as arrangements were not yet in place. But unlike Ghana, I do not have contacts with the government of Rwanda so I cannot be certain.

What I am sure of is that it would be a massive disgrace to any African country to host prisons for locking up those fleeing persecution – including fellow Africans. I do not wish to believe that any African state would cooperate with the continent’s largest former colonial power, which still retains colonial possessions, in the systematic imposition of racist detention. It would be a terrible blot on the good name of Rwanda, and a terrible blot on the good name of Africa.

We must call on all Rwandans, wherever they may be, to express through your contacts and institutions your unhappiness at any Rwandan involvement in such a scheme. It is only racism that determines that refugees from wars and disaster from Eritrea, Syria or Libya should be treated differently (by the UK) from Ukrainians or political dissidents from Russia (though God knows the UK has failed to offer the real help to Ukrainians it promised).

A policy which is going to include using naval boats to push struggling Africans and others in small craft back in the cruel sea, which will include shackling Africans, who have done nothing except flee war and starvation, to fly them to Rwanda, should not for a moment be entertained by any African country. No amount of money promised by Johnson and his crew is worth selling the souls of the Rwandan nation for this scheme.

We must also call on the African Union to adopt a policy that no African country will host immigration detention camps for former colonial powers. We must call on His Excellency President Macky Sall of Senegal, Chairperson of the African Union, to bring the matter forward. I call on Presidents Cyril Ramaphosa, Nana Akuffo Addo and Muhammadu Buhari to make sure there is a firm African Union policy against this evil. We must especially call on President Paul Kagame of Rwanda to follow the Ghanaian example and immediately deny Johnson’s claims.

This really is an issue where Africans, both in Africa and in the diaspora, particularly in the UK, I believe could get a reaction from their governments if everybody feeds in their concern by whatever means is available to them.

Africa has been for many years the victim of white racism. Africans should never act as the facilitator of white racism.

I am contacting a number of people to see if I can organise a delegation to Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and OAU Headquarters in Addis Ababa to lobby against Johnson’s prison camps.

I am very happy to hear from anybody who can contribute in any way to efforts to unite Africa against this shameful proposal.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Striving to Make Sense of the Ukraine War 1383

No matter how hard we try to be dispassionate and logical, our thinking is affected by our own experiences, by the background knowledge we have and by the assumptions they generate. In discussing Ukraine – which arouses understandably high passions – I want to explain to you some of the experiences which affect my own thinking.

I will start with childhood, when my world view was pretty firmly set. I spent much of my young life at my grandparents’ on my mother’s side, in Norfolk. In the spare room in which I would sleep, under the bed there were cardboard boxes full of periodicals that I, as an avid ten year old reader, devoured completely. They included large sets of The War Illustrated and The Boy’s Own Paper.

The War Illustrated was a weekly magazine produced in both the first and second world war, detailing the week’s key events with stories, photos and drawings. This was the second world war collection. It was sometimes remarkably stark – I still recall the report of the sinking of HMS Prince of Wales and a companion ship by Japanese aircraft, of which the magazine somehow had aerial photos.

But in the early part of the war, known as the “phony war“, when not a great deal was happening to fill the magazine, it concentrated very heavily on the heroic Finnish resistance against Stalin’s Russia in the Winter War. There were, every week, photos of heroic Finns in white hooded winter gear, against a white snowy background, and stories of how they had skied up and down Soviet armoured convoys, destroying them, and were holding back a massively superior opponent amidst lakes and woods. After reading though many weeks of the periodicals, I felt intimately acquainted with the Mannerheim line and those big brave Finns, whose individual tales of great daring I lapped (no pun intended) up.

Incidentally, after writing that paragraph I read this article in the Guardian about Ukrainian quad bike patrols in the snows and the forests, knocking out Russian tanks with drones. It really is identical in content and purpose to the Finnish ski patrol stories, only updated for modern technology.

Then suddenly, from one issue to the next, the Finns were no longer heroes but were evil Nazis, and the Mannerheim Line was now definitely as German as it sounds. What is more, if marginally more gradually, the evil Communist tyrant Stalin, who had sent army after army unsuccessfully against the Finns and been executing his own commanders, was suddenly genial, wise Stalin. As a ten year old, I found the transition very hard to fathom, and being now romantically fully committed to the Finnish cause, I rather went off the magazines.

I tried to ask my grandfather to explain it to me, but whenever we mentioned “the war”, his eyes filled with silent tears. You see, those magazines had belonged to his only son, my mother’s only brother, who was to die aged 19 in a Mosquito bomber over Italy. That is why those magazines were still under his bed and had never been thrown away. Jack’s absence hung over my childhood, and I often felt myself a very inadequate substitute. Jack had been a very talented footballer, who had signed apprentice forms for Sheffield Wednesday, then perhaps the best team in the country. He had been a very talented musician, like my grandfather. Whereas I failed to excel at, well, anything.

I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. I was fortunate to be loved unconditionally. But I grew up with a real sense of the terrible loss, the waste, the void of war, of young lives lost that can never be replaced. I grew up with a hatred of war and of militarism. And of distrust of the official narrative of who are the goodies and who the baddies in war, when that official narrative can turn on its head in a week, as the magazines did with the Finns.

Well, it is now over 50 years later, and those are still exactly my sentiments today. And that parable of the noble/evil Finns is still relevant today. Because much of what is happening in Ukraine still reflects the failure to resolve who was on which side during World War II, and some pretty unpleasant underlying narratives.

You can see the line of thinking by which nations which had been suppressed, or risked suppression, by the Soviet Union, or by Russia before it, might see an alliance with Nazi Germany as an opportunity. Remember that the second world war was taking place only 20 years after the dissolution of the Hapsburg and Hohenzollern Empires. Even a nation like Poland had only enjoyed 20 years of freedom in the past 150, and that with some fairly dodgy governance.

That the Finns effectively allied with the Nazis has never been fully worked through in Finnish national dialogue, even in that most introspective of nations. Sweden hid from itself the extent of its elite collusion and fundamental integration into the Nazi military industrial complex for, well, forever. Probably no country advanced its comparative economic position more out of World War II than Sweden, that epicentre of smug, condescending European liberalism.

So in this mess you can see how a figure like Bandera, fighting for Ukraine’s freedom, can become a national hero to many of his countrymen for fighting the Soviets, despite fighting alongside the Nazis. The key questions in re-evaluation today, across those nationalities which fought the Soviets at the same time as the Nazis did, ought to be these – how much coordination with the Nazis was there, and to what extent did they participate in, or mirror, Nazi atrocities, doctrines of racial purity and genocide?

This is where Bandera and the Ukrainian freedom fighters must attract unreserved condemnation. They were heavily involved in genocidal attacks on Jews, on Poles in Ukraine and on other ethnic and religious minorities. Ukraine was by no means alone. Lithuania was very similar, and to only slightly lesser extent, so were Estonia and Latvia. In none of these countries has there been a systematic attempt to address the darknesses of the nationalist past. Ukraine and Lithuania are the worst for actual glorification of genocidal anti-semite and racist figures, but the problem is widespread in Eastern Europe.

Even Poland is not immune. Poles are proud of their history, and are very touchy at the fact that the millions of Poles who died in Auschwitz and the other Nazi death camps are often overlooked in a narrative that focuses, in Polish nationalist eyes, too exclusively on the Jewish victims. But the Poles are themselves in denial about the very substantial local collaboration between Poles and Nazis specifically against Jews, often with an eye to obtaining their land in rural areas.

This is where the story gets still more difficult. The neo-Nazi nationalists of Ukraine are an extreme manifestation of a problem across the whole of Eastern Europe, where ancient atavistic social views have not been abolished. I say this as someone who loves Eastern Europe, and who has spoken both Polish and Russian fluently (or at least has managed to pass the Foreign Office exams designed to test whether I could). Viktor Orban in Hungary, the religious right government of Poland, and yes, the far right voting electorate of Austria, are all on the same continuum of dark belief as the Nazi worshipping nationalists in Ukraine and Lithuania.

Let me tell you another story from my past, from twenty five years ago. I was First Secretary in the British Embassy in Warsaw. A highly respected elderly Polish lady, from an old family in the city, was our most senior member of local staff. I had asked her to set up a lunch for me with an official from the Polish Foreign Ministry, to discuss eventual EU accession. I made a remark about the lunch being enjoyable as the lady was both very smart and very pretty. Drawing me aside, our most senior member of local staff gave me a warning: “You do realise she’s Jewish, don’t you?”.

You could have knocked me down with a feather. But in four years in Poland I was to become used to bumping into matter of fact anti-semitism, on a regular basis, from the most “respectable” people, and particularly from precisely the forces and institutions that now bolster the current Polish government; not least the Catholic church.

These are highly sensitive issues and I know from experience I will receive furious feedback from all kinds of nationalities. But what I state is my experience. I should add that from my experience of Russia, society there is at least as bad for racial prejudice, especially against Asians, for homophobia, and for neo-Nazi groups. It is a problem across Eastern Europe, which is insufficiently appreciated in Western Europe.

I know Russia too well to have a romanticised view of it. I have lived there, worked there and visited often. I have very frequently expressed my frustration that many of those in the West who understand the ruthless nature of Western leaders, lose their clear sight when looking at Russia and believe it is different in that regard. In fact Russia is even less democratic, has an even less diverse media, even worse restrictions on free expression, and an even poorer working class. The percentage of Russian GDP lost in capital flight to the benefit of oligarchs and Western financial institutions is hideous.

As the West has entered more and more extreme stages of neo-liberalism, the general trend is that the West has become more and more like modern Russia. The massive and ever burgeoning inequality of wealth has seen western oligarchs now overtake their Russian counterparts in terms of the proportion of national GDP represented by their personal fortunes. In the West, multiplying limitations on free speech and assembly, the reduction in diversity of the mainstream media landscape, internet suppression of views through corporate gateways like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, increased direct or indirect reproduction of security service initiated content in the media, these are all making the West more Russia-like. To me, it feels like Western leaders are learning from Putin’s book.

Security service fronts multiply – the Integrity Initiative, Quilliam Foundation, Bellingcat are all examples, as now is the entire Guardian newspaper. Increasingly “journalists” merely copy and paste security service press releases. This is absolutely an echo of Putin’s Russia. In this war in Ukraine, the propaganda from the BBC is as absolutely biased, selective of facts and lacking in nuance as the propaganda from Russian state TV. One is the mirror of the other. Russia pioneered kataskopocracy in this era – the West is catching up fast.

To recount another particular experience, I was very interested two years ago in the arrest for treason of a Russian space official and former journalist, Ivan Safronov. The accusations refer to his time as a journalist, before he joined the space agency, and are that he passed classified information to Czech, German and Swiss recipients. There are parallels between the Russian espionage charges against Safronov and the US espionage charges against Assange.

I am particularly interested because in 2007 I investigated in Moscow the death of Safronov’s father, also called Ivan Safronov, and also a journalist. I believe Safronov was one of a great many journalists killed by various levels of the Putin regime, of which deaths the vast majority have passed completely unnoticed in the West.

Safronov worked for Kommersant, broadly the Russian equivalent to the Financial Times or Wall street Journal. He was defence correspondent and had published a series of investigations into procurement corruption in the Ministry of Defence and the real state of the Russian armed forces (you might see where I am heading with regard to the war in Ukraine).

Kommersant’s general independence had become a great irritant to Putin, and he had arranged for his close adviser Alisher Usmanov to buy up the title on an “offer you can’t refuse” basis. The editorial team was swiftly replaced. The dogged and highly regarded Safronov was more of a problem.

This is from my 2007 report:

Two months ago, 51 year old Ivan Safronov, defence correspondent of the authoritative Kommersant newspaper in Moscow, came home from work. He had bought a few groceries on the way, apparently for the evening meal. On the street where he lived, as he passed the chemist’s shop in front of the cluster of grim Soviet era apartment blocks, he met his neighbour, Olga Petrovna. She tells me that he smiled from under his hat and nodded to her. After a mild winter, Moscow had turned cold in March and Safronov held his carrier bag of groceries in one hand while the other clutched the lapels of his coat closed against the snow. Fifty yards further on he arrived at the entrance to his block, and punched in the code – 6 and 7 together, then 2 which opened the mechanical lock of the rough, grey metal door at the entrance to the concrete hallway. He passed on into the gloomy dank corridor.

So far this is a perfectly normal Moscow scene. But then – and this is the official version of events – Ivan Safronov did something extraordinary. He walked up the communal concrete stairs with their stark iron rail, until he reached his apartment. It is, in British terms, on the second floor. Instead of going in, he carried on walking, past his own door. He continued up another flight and a half of steps, to the top landing, between the third and fourth floors. Then, placing his groceries on the floor, he opened the landing window, climbed on to the sill, and stepped out to his death, still wearing his hat and coat.

Ivan Safronov thus became about the one hundred and sixtieth – nobody can be certain of precise numbers – journalist to meet a violent end in post-communist Russia. In the West, the cases of Anna Politkovskaya and Alexander Litvinienko hit the headlines. But in Russia, there was nothing exceptional about those killings. It has long been understood that if you publish material which embarrasses or annoys those in power, you are likely to come to a very sticky end…

Safronov had a reputation as a highly professional journalist, meticulous about checking his facts. He was by no means a sensationalist, but had over the years published articles which embarrassed the Kremlin, about bullying, prostitution and suicide among Russia’s conscript armed forces, and about high level corruption which deprives the troops of adequate clothing, rations and equipment.

He had recently returned from a large trade fair in Dubai, attended by senior representatives of Russia’s armed forces and defence industries. He told colleagues at Kommersant that he had learnt something there about corruption in major arms contracts, involving exports to Syria, Iran and other destinations. He had told his editor he had come back with a ‘Big story’. But, as usual, he was carefully checking up on his facts first.

Now his story will never be published.

I walk through the dirty Moscow drizzle to a police station in the foot of the apartment block opposite Safronov’s. The officer in charge is brusque. There are no suspicious circumstances and the case is closed. Why am I wasting his time, and trying to cause trouble? He threatens to arrest me, so I beat a hasty retreat to find Safronov’s flat, past the chemist’s shop, in the footsteps of his last walk. In the muddy yard between the blocks, unkempt drunks squat for shelter at the foot of scrubby trees, drinking cheap vodka from the bottle.

I look up at the top landing window from which Safronov fell. It doesn’t look terribly high. Outside the block entrance, I stop and look down at the patch of ground on which he landed. The surface is an uneven patchwork of brick, concrete, asphalt and mud. Here a passing group of young men found Safronov, writhing on the ground, conscious but unable to speak. It took almost three hours for an ambulance to come. According to Kommersant Deputy Editor Ilya Bilyanov, although plainly alive when finally taken away, he was declared dead on arrival at hospital.

A stout old lady beating her rugs in the rain gives me the combination to go in to the apartment building. Once through the heavy metal door, I am overwhelmed by the smell of fresh paint. . Everything in the stairway – walls, ceilings, rails, doors, window frames – has been covered in lashings of thick oozing paint, as though to cover over any trace of recent events. The paint has been slapped on so thick that, even after several days, it remains tacky.

I pass the door of Safranov’s flat and continue up to the top landing. At the cost of some paint damage to my coat, I pose in the window from which he allegedly threw himself. It is certainly quite easy to open and clamber out, but it is a bad choice for a suicide. Soviet flats are low-ceilinged, and I calculate the window is a maximum height of 26 feet above the ground. I don’t know about you, but if I was to kill myself by jumping, I would choose somewhere high enough to make death instant… As I peer down from the window I realise that, jumping from here, you are almost certain to hit the porch roof jutting out below. That is only about twenty feet down. The Moscow police claim that marks in the snow on the porch roof were the firm evidence that Safranov jumped.

Two middle aged ladies pass with their shopping. I explain that I am investigating Safranov’s death; it seems an improbable suicide. ‘Very strange,’ they agree, ‘Very, very strange.’ They go on to volunteer that Safranov was a pleasant man, had a very good wife, did not drink excessively and was much looking forward to the imminent birth of a grandchild. Plainly, everything they say is questioning the official version, but they do not wish to do so openly. They conclude by shaking their heads and repeating their mantra ‘Very, very strange,’ as they scuttle on into their flats.

Ilya Bilyanov, Safronov’s boss, is more categorical. Safronov was a devoted family man, very protective of his wife and daughter and proud of his son, about to start University. Bilyanov says: ‘He could not have killed himself. He loved his family too much to abandon them.’

For full disclosure, the report was commissioned by the Mail on Sunday. I make no apologies for that, any more than I apologise for appearing on Russia Today. Telling the truth is what matters, irrespective of platform. On the same trip I investigated the killings of half a dozen other individual journalists who had crossed the authorities.

I am fairly sure that today I would not be permitted to go around doing this; walking in to a Moscow police station to ask about such a death, or interviewing passersby in the street and work colleagues, would get me arrested fairly quickly.

I wrote recently about NATO, the western military and the arms industry’s continued interest in exaggerating the strength of the Russian military, and how at the end of the Cold War the new access of British defence attachés led them to find the real capabilities of the Soviet army had been exaggerated on a massive scale. I have repeatedly stated that Russia, with the economy of Italy and Spain, is not a military superpower.

The Safronov case further reinforced my personal knowledge that the Russian military is undermined by massive corruption. I have therefore not been in the least surprised that Russia has had a much harder time subjugating Ukraine than many expected. Some commentators have particularly amused me by claiming that you cannot compare defence spending levels because Russian defence expenditure is more efficient than American. They cited all the corruption in US defence expenditure, such as the famous US$800 toilet seats; as though Russia were not itself spectacularly corrupt.

At just the time of Safronov’s death, Russia brought in as Minister of Defence Anatoly Serdiukov, who made genuine attempts at radical reform and eliminating corruption. This brought him so many enemies he had to be replaced by current defence minister Shoygu, now in power for ten years. Shoygu has adopted a policy of showcasing new weapons systems while not rocking the boat on corruption.

Do not confuse the apparently dazzling achievements at the shiny end of the vast sums of money Russia has pumped in to weapons development, with the day to day business of defence procurement and military supply. Russian hypersonic ballistic missiles may or may not perform as advertised, but more relevant to Ukraine are the creaking vehicles which have not been maintained, the inoperable tyres, the lack of rations, the old fashioned tank armour.

One of the truths about the Ukraine war which western media is suppressing is that, if Russia cannot take on Ukraine without serious embarrassment, then Russia could not possibly take on NATO. It is a ludicrous proposition, outwith full scale nuclear war. It is fascinating to watch the western militarist establishment in full cry, simultaneously crowing over Russian military inadequacies while claiming that the West needs massively to increase the money it pumps in to the military industrial complex because of the Russian threat. The self-evidently fatuous nature of this dual assertion is never pointed out by mainstream media journalists, who currently operate in full propaganda mode.

Another Russian asset has proved as unreliable as its military: Putin’s brain. On 16 December 2021 Ukraine and its US sponsor were not just diplomatically isolated, but diplomatically humiliated. At a vote at the UN General Assembly, the United States and Ukraine were the only two countries to vote against a resolution on “Combating glorification of Nazism, neo‑Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance”. They lost by 130 votes to 2, on a motion sponsored by Russia.

The United States, crucially, was split from its European allies and, almost uniquely, from Israel on this vote. Everyone knew that the vote was about Nazis in Ukraine, not least because the United States and Ukraine both said so in their explanation of vote. The entire world was prepared to acknowledge that the neo-Nazis in positions of power and authority in Ukraine, including the anti-semites of the Svoboda party in ministerial office, were a real problem. There was also a general understanding that Ukraine had reneged on the Minsk agreements and that the banning of the Russian language in official, media and educational use was a serious problem.

(I pause to note the US explanation of vote stated that the US constitution prevented it from voting for a motion calling for the banning of pro-Nazi speech, because of US commitment to free speech and the first amendment. It is worth noting that free speech in Biden administration eyes protects Nazis but does not protect Julian Assange. It is also worth contrasting the protection of free speech for Nazis with the de facto banning of Russia Today in the United States.)

The EU abstained on the vote, but all of the above problems were rehearsed in ministerial discussions that reached that decision. You can add to the above that it was universally acknowledged in diplomatic circles that there was no chance of Ukraine (ditto Georgia) being admitted to NATO while Russia occupied parts of Ukraine’s sovereign territory. Given NATO’s mutual defence obligations, to admit Ukraine would be tantamount to entering armed conflict with Russia and it was simply not open to serious consideration.

How Russia might have progressed from this strong diplomatic position we shall never know. There can seldom have been a more catastrophic diplomatic move than Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. It can be measured very simply. From winning the proxy vote on Ukraine at the UN General Assembly by 130 votes to 2 on 19 December, Russia plummeted to losing the vote in the same General Assembly demanding immediate Russian withdrawal from Ukraine by 141 votes to 5 on 2 March.

This diplomatic disaster has been matched by military humiliation. Russia is a far larger country than Ukraine and it is pointless to pretend that Russia did not expect the military campaign to proceed better than it has. To claim now post facto that the attack on Kiev was purely a massive diversion never intended to succeed, is a nonsense. Elsewhere achievements are shaky. Capturing cities is different to holding them, and the myth that Russian speaking populations in Eastern Ukraine were eager to join Russia has been plainly exploded by the lack of popular support in occupied areas.

Putin’s heavy handedness has alienated what potential support for Russia existed outside the Russian controlled areas of Donbass. It is hard now to recall that prior to the coup of 2014, political support in Ukraine was balanced for two decades fairly evenly between pro-Western and pro-Russian camps. Both Russia and the West interfered from 1992 to 2014 outrageously in Ukrainian internal politics, each using the full panoply of “soft power” – propaganda, sponsorship, corrupt payments, occasional proxy violence.

Matters were brought to a head in Ukraine when Yanukovich was flown to Moscow and persuaded by Putin to renounce the EU Association Agreement which Ukraine was entering, in favour of a new trade deal with Russia. This evidently was a key moment of political choice, and Putin overplayed his hand as he lost out in the crisis that ensued. That Russian defeat in 2014 may not have been terminal if Putin had not responded militarily by annexing parts of Ukraine. In doing so, he alienated the large majority of Ukrainians of all ethnicities forever – as I stated at the time.

So now Putin can stride the stage as the macho guy who outfoxed the west and used his military to win Crimea for Mother Russia. But it is an extremely hollow victory. He has gained Crimea, but lost the other 95% of the Ukraine, over which one month ago he exercised a massive political influence.

The current invasion of Ukraine has differed from previous incidents like South Ossetia, Abkhazia or even Crimea in that it has been much more extensive, and entailed an attack on the capital, rather than simply occupation of the targeted areas. If Putin had simply massively reinforced Russian forces in the areas controlled by his breakaway “republics”, there would not be anything like the international reaction which has resulted.

One particularly unsavoury aspect of all this – and here we come back to Finland/Russia and the goodies/baddies narrative – is that all the massive problems of Ukraine are now utterly whitewashed by the western political and media class. There was general acceptance previously, albeit reluctantly, that the “Nazi problem” exists. It is now almost universally reviled as a Russian fiction, even though it is undoubtedly true.

Just a year ago, even the Guardian was prepared to admit that President Zelensky is linked to $41 million in dodgy offshore cash holdings and effectively a front for corrupt oligarch Kolomoisky, who looted $5.5 billion from Privatbank. Now, thanks entirely to Putin, Zelensky is viewed universally as a combination of Churchill and St Francis of Assisi, and any criticism of him whatsoever in the West will get you online lynched.

That the United States is becoming a kataskopocracy is witnessed by the willingness of the Biden administration to rip up the First Amendment in order to prosecute Assange under the Espionage Act, because the CIA and FBI demand it. It is also witnessed by the role of the security agencies in suppressing the truth about Hunter Biden and his corrupt links to Ukraine. The Biden laptop was, as I stated at the time and is now admitted even by the New York Times, an entirely genuine inadvertent leak.

You will recall that from when his father was Vice President, Hunter Biden was paid $85,000 a month by Burisma, a Ukrainian power company which Hunter never once visited and for which he did no discernible work. When his laptop was given to the New York Post, revealing salacious sex and drugs evidence and more importantly, blatant peddling of his father’s influence, the entire “respectable” mainstream media rubbished it as a fraud and, remarkably, Twitter and Facebook both suppressed any mention of it as “fake news”. This suppression was advocated by the US security services, contacting the media and the internet gatekeepers at top level, and conducting a public campaign through activating retired agents.

This was the CNN headline:

The Biden laptop was leaked on 14 October 2020, three weeks before voting day in the Presidential election. Its suppression by the mainstream media, Twitter and Facebook, at the behest of the security services, is the biggest illegitimate interference in an election in modern western history.

That the Ukraine is the scene of so much of the corruption of Biden and son, but no criticism of the Ukraine is currently considered legitimate, has made now a very good time for the approved media to admit the banned stories were in fact true, while nobody is listening. We are also even seeing credulous articles on why Nazis are not really bad at all.

A Ukrainian oligarch was the biggest single donor to the Clinton Foundation, and the murky links between the American political establishment and Ukraine are still surfacing; it has plainly been a major honeypot for US politicians. The recent Credit Suisse leak, again sadly curated and censored by mainstream media, revealed Ukrainians as the largest European nationality involved, but the media gave us virtually no details – and those confined to two “coincidentally” pro-Russian Ukrainians out of 1,000 Ukrainian accounts. Whatever information on Ukrainian government linked oligarchs was contained in the Credit Suisse documents is suppressed by those who control them, which in the UK includes the Guardian newspaper and James O’Brien of LBC. In Ukraine the material was shared only with pro-government journalists.

I have been criticised severely on Twitter by those who believe that now, in wartime, it is wrong to say anything bad about Ukraine and we must solely concentrate on Russia’s defeat. To be clear, I hold Putin’s invasion of Ukraine to be not only stupid and vicious but also illegal, and to constitute the war crime of aggression. But we come back precisely to the angels and devils simplicity of looking for “goodies” and “baddies”. The Azov Battalion have not suddenly become less racist or brutal or Nazi-worshipping because they are fighting the Russians.

The real danger is that the heroic resistance to Putin’s invasion – and be in no doubt, it is heroic – will be a massive boost to the right in Ukraine, and the cult of “Glory to the heroes!” will be massively reinforced. The far right had more influence than Zelensky wished before this current invasion, and his ability to control them is limited. His personal standing is much enhanced. He may be a deeply fallible human being, but as a war leader he has been brilliant. He has exploited media to boost the morale of his armed forces and to rally his people, and been very effective in using international public pressure to rally practical support from foreign powers. Those are key skills for a war leader, and if “acting” is one of the skill sets needed, that makes it none the less true.

But I very much doubt the enhanced standing of Zelensky will enable him to counter the right wing nationalist wave that will sweep Ukraine, especially if resistance continues to be effective in containing Russian advances. Certainly measures that were previously decried by liberals, like the Russian language ban, now have wide support. I shall be very surprised if, once the dust has settled, we do not see much worse repression of ethnic Russians under the guise of action against “collaborators”. Far from denazifying Ukraine, Putin has boosted its Nazi problem.

Having damaged my own reputation for sagacity by my over-confidence that Putin would not be foolish enough to launch a full scale invasion, I am reluctant to venture any predictions as to outcome, but the most likely must be a frozen conflict, with Russia in control of rather more territory than before the conflict started. The Kremlin has appeared to backtrack its aims to securing the territory of its newly recognised republics, and still appears intent on seizing as much coastline as possible. Without a credible threat to Kiev, Zelensky has little motive formally to agree a ceasefire on this basis. Eventually we will reach some form of de facto stasis.

Now is a good moment to correct the myth that the population of Donbass is ethnic Russian and wishes to be united with Russia. I will make three points.

The first is that there is a difference between Russian speaking and ethnic Russian, and repeated census returns in Ukraine showed the majority in Donbass to identify as ethnic Ukrainian, though Russian speaking.

Secondly, the ethnic Russians were heavily concentrated in the urban centres and thus much more politically visible than the rural Ukrainian majority, and far quicker politically mobilised. This is precisely what happened in 2014 (and failed with tragic loss of life in Odessa).

The third is that many ethnic Russians have resisted the current invasion, and even Russian media has struggled to find evidence of mass enthusiasm in newly “liberated” areas.

In the western world, Russia has served as not only the evil empire that “justifies” massive arms expenditure, but as the evil genius behind all political developments that threaten the smooth course of neoliberalism.

This was brought to its highest pitch by Hillary Clinton’s ludicrous claims that it was Russian hacking that cost her the 2016 election. It was actually the fact that she was an appalling and arrogant candidate, whom the electorate disliked and black voters did not bother to turn out for in their usual numbers, and that she ignored the voters of rustbelt states and their concerns.

The security services were shocked by Trump’s aversion to starting new wars abroad, his maverick inclination to have his own take on relations with Russia and the Middle East, and his general lack of docility in the face of security service advice. (Much of Trump’s foreign policy was terrible, I am not attempting to say otherwise. But he was not the kind of docile, Obama-like tool the security services were used to).

The security services therefore worked against Trump his entire time in office, from boosting the Russiagate election hacking narrative, despite there being no evidence for it whatsoever, to quiet briefings giving credence to the appalling charlatan Steele’s discredited “peegate” dossier, right through to the suppression of the Biden laptop story. The Mueller inquiry failed to come up with any evidence of collusion between Russia and Wikileaks in hacking the DNC emails, because there was no such collusion.

Neither was there collusion between Wikileaks and Trump. The story the UK security services placed in their house journal the Guardian, on secret meetings between Manafort and Assange, was simply a lie. Throughout his Presidency Trump was subjected to a continual drip, drip, drip of briefings to the media from his own security services that he was, in some way, a secret Russian asset, Putin’s puppet.

The CIA commissioned from UC Global 24 hour secret taping of Assange in the Ecuadorean Embassy, including in the bedroom, toilet and kitchen. This included meetings with his lawyers, but also many hours of private conversation with myself, with Kristin Hrafnsson and others. This too came up entirely empty on evidence of Russian collusion. Because there was never any such collusion.

Just as “Russiagate” was an utter nonsense, attempting to use Putin to explain the advent of Trump, so in the UK liberals comforted themselves by attempting to use Putin to explain Brexit. Like Trump, Nigel Farage and Arron Banks “must” be secret Russian agents too. The high priestess of this particular cult belief is Carole Cadwalladr. From having done good work in exposing Cambridge Analytica, which targeted political ads to Tory benefit using personal data which Facebook was greatly at fault in making available on its customers, Cadwalladr allowed the subsequent accolades to go to her head and became the security services’ tool in making ever wilder claims of Russian influence.

Cadwalladr’s task was easy because the UK’s liberal middle class simply could not come to terms with Brexit having happened. They could not understand that vast swathes of the working class were so alienated from society by the effects of unconstrained neo-liberalism, that they were led to grasp at Brexit as a possible remedy. That is not a comforting thought. Instead, Cadwalladr offered the much more digestible notion of Putin as an evil exterior cause.

With right thinking liberals on both sides of the Atlantic appalled by the advent of Trump and Brexit, there was no depth of Russophobe fantasy which figures like Cadwalladr and Steele could not plumb as an explanation and still find a willing audience, without being questioned too hard on actual evidence.

Again, I should be plain. Nations do interfere in each other’s democratic processes to try to get results favourable to themselves. It is a fundamental part of the job of spy services and of diplomats. It is what they are paid to do. I did it myself in Poland, and with quite spectacular success in Ghana in 2000 (read my book The Catholic Orangemen of Togo).

No nation interferes in other nation’s elections and political processes on the scale that the United States does, every single day. Today it is trying to get rid of Imran Khan in Pakistan as well as continuing its work against the government in Venezuela, Cuba, Syria and elsewhere. That there was marginal Russian activity I do not doubt, but not on any grand or unusual scale or with any particularly striking effect. And not involving Wikileaks.

One consequence of the invasion of Ukraine is that every mad Russophobe narrative of the past decade is now, in the public mind, vindicated. Including the remarkably unsuccessful attempts to assassinate Skripal and Navalny. It is now impossible to claim that there is any evil for which Russia is not responsible, without suffering a deluge of online hostility and ridicule. The western military industrial complex, NATO and the Western security services have all been enormously strengthened in their domestic position and control of popular opinion by Putin’s mad invasion.

There are aspects of Putin’s foreign policy which I have supported, and still do. Having inadvertently installed a pro-Iranian Shia regime in Iraq, the West sought to appease its Gulf and Israeli allies and “restore the balance” by replacing the Shia-friendly Assad regime by hardline ISIS and Al-Qaida linked jihadists. This may have been the most stupid foreign policy move in recent history, and thank goodness Putin sent troops into Syria to thwart it. On a more standard diplomatic level, Russia has played a pivotal and entirely commendable role in trying to end the isolation of Iran in nuclear agreement talks.

But I have always consistently opposed Putin’s invasions in the post-Soviet space, including the brutal destruction of Chechnya that brought Putin to power. I support Dagestani and Chechen independence, and have written consistent articles pointing out that Russia remains an Empire, with most of its territory not ethnic Russian and acquired contemporaneously with the conquests of the British Empire. I have consistently called for stronger and more effective sanctions, in response to the occupation of South Ossetia in 2008 and of Crimea in 2014. In 2008 I warned explicitly that the lack of a firm sanctions response to Putin’s aggression would lead eventually to war in Eastern Ukraine.

Russia’s actions are illegal but the US and UK, who launched an equally illegal and much more devastating invasion of Iraq, are ill-placed to be outraged. A de facto Russia annexation of South Ossetia must not be permitted, unless we eventually want a war of Eastern Ukraine.
NATO is part of the cause of the problem, not the solution. By encircling and humiliating Russia, NATO has created the climate in Russia so favourable to Putin.

That last sentence remains a key observation. It is the West’s unremitting hostility to Russia which has caused a Russian nationalist reaction and sustained Putin in power. The West’s military industrial complex needed an enemy, and had Russia developed in a more liberal direction it would have been a disaster for the militarists. So instead of working to plot a path for Russia into the European Union, it was forced to sit in the corner with a hat on saying “designated enemy”, while NATO continually expanded. That is the tragedy of the last three decades.

All of which ignores the fact that China is now the most dominant economic force in the world, and is probably the most dominant military force in the world, although Chinese wisdom in not recently deploying its military might on imperial adventures contrasts sharply with the United States. I am not sure when I last bought anything which was not made in China – including, to my amazement, our second hand Volvo. All this Russia/NATO antagonism will scarcely rate a footnote by mid-century.

I want to conclude with a plea for complex thought. I want to go back to the Finns and Russians at the start of this story, and the truth that “goodies” and “baddies” is not a helpful diagnostic tool for international relations. These things can be true at the same time:

a) The Russian invasion of Ukraine is illegal: Putin is a war criminal
b) The US led invasion of Iraq was illegal: Blair and Bush are war criminals

a) Russian troops are looting, raping and shelling civilian areas
b) Ukraine has Nazis entrenched in the military and in government and commits atrocities against Russians

a) Zelensky is an excellent war leader
b) Zelensky is corrupt and an oligarch puppet

a) Russian subjugation of Chechnya was brutal and a disproportionate response to an Independence movement
b) Russian intervention in Syria saved the Middle East from an ISIS controlled jihadist state

a) Russia is extremely corrupt with a very poor human rights record
b) Western security service narratives such as “Russiagate” and “Skripals” are highly suspect, politically motivated and unevidenced.

a) NATO expansion is unnecessary, threatening to Russia and benefits nobody but the military industrial complex
b) The Russian military industrial complex is equally powerful in its own polity as is Russian nationalism

I could go on, but you get the point. I hold all those points to be true. The media and political class in the UK will trumpet a) and vehemently deny b). Many in the anti-war movement will trumpet b) and vehemently deny a). None of these people have any actual principles. They are simply choosing a side, choosing their “goodies” and “baddies”, their black hats and white hats. It is no more an ethical choice than supporting a football team.

One final thought on the tone of the coverage of the war both of the media and of supporters of the official western line on social media. Though affecting to be sickened by the atrocities of war, their tone is not of sorrow or devastation, it is triumphalist and jubilant. The amount of war porn and glorying in war is worrying. The mood of the British nation is atavistic. Russians living here are forced on a daily basis to declare antagonism to their own people and homeland.

I have had great difficulty in writing this piece – I have worked on it some three weeks, and the reason is a deep sadness which this unnecessary war has caused me. In the course of my typing any paragraph, somebody has probably been killed or seriously injured in Ukraine, of whatever background. They had a mother and others who loved them. There is no triumph in violent death.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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14 Years Ahead of the Game 127

On 14 August 2008 the Independent newspaper published together three comments on the Russian invasion of South Ossetia. They were by John McCain, Mikhail Gorbachev and (checks notes) Craig Murray.

I am proud of my comments all these years later, both by their prescience and by my consistency of view until today. This is what I said:

Craig Murray

Russia’s actions are illegal but the US and UK, who launched an equally illegal and much more devastating invasion of Iraq, are ill-placed to be outraged. A de facto Russia annexatioin of South Ossetia must not be permitted, unless we eventually want a war of Eastern Ukraine.
NATO is part of the cause of the problem, not the solution. By encircling and humiliating Russia, NATO has created the climate in Russia so favourable to Putin.

If you wonder what the two other gentlemen said:

John McCain

I’m not saying we are reigniting the Cold War but this is an act of aggression which we didn’t think we would see in the 21st Century. Of course we have to deal with Russia and deal with Putin. But it has to be on a realistic basis.
I think that it’s very clear that Russian ambitions are to restore the old Russian Empire. Not the Soviet Union, but the Russian Empire. Russia no longer share any of the values and principles of the G8, so they should be excluded.

Mikhail Gorbachev

By declaring the Caucasus – a region that is thousands of miles from the American continent – a sphere of its “national interest”, the United States made a serious blunder.
Of course, peace in the Caucasus is in the interest of everyone. But it is simply common sense to recognise that Russia is rooted in the region by common geography and centuries of history.
Russia is not seeking territorial expansion, but it has legitimate interests in the region.

I have spent the last two weeks writing a lengthy and very considered piece about Ukraine. I hope I might finally publish it today.

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Alex Salmond and the European Court 211

I went to jail in order to expose the fact that Alex Salmond was being framed on false charges, orchestrated within the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s office and testified to by perjury committed by individuals very close to Sturgeon, who made fake claims of molestation. They were seen right through by a largely female jury. But the details of the defence case were reported by nobody but me, (I was jailed for it). The mainstream media, led by the BBC, conducted in unison a campaign to portray Salmond as guilty and the verdict as perverse, by presenting to the public only the prosecution case.

My reports of the actual evidence were removed from the internet by the courts.

Alex Salmond is a remarkable man. Since 1707 nobody has managed to bring Scotland closer to Independence than he. Those who tried to jail him live large on his political legacy, while cooperating with the British state to kill off the Independence movement.

Alex is now a much diminished figure. The effect of the current cultural climate is that any man accused of sexual offence, even if cleared by a jury, even if the accuser was as plainly lying as the truly evil Woman H, can never recover their reputation. There is, extraordinarily, a very serious strain of currently accepted dogma, that a woman must always be believed in such circumstances, whether she is lying or not. This is an abjuration of logic and return to medievalism.

A further strain of thought I have encountered is that nine separate accusers could not possibly have been lying. Well, it is certainly highly unlikely unless they were orchestrated and acting in concert. The evidence they were orchestrated and acting in concert is overwhelming. Much of it remains locked by the court, having been kept even from the rigged Holyrood parliamentary inquiry (and it was excluded from the Salmond trial itself by Lady Dorrian as “collateral”). I hope that my appeal to the European Court of Human Rights will cause this material finally to be produced – and enable me eventually to explain to you, in full, what actually happened in the Sturgeon conspiracy.

It will certainly be a huge relief to be able to fight the legal case away from this cesspool of corruption.

Well, Alex Salmond still battles away, now leading a fringe party. As it becomes obvious that the SNP has abandoned the Independence cause in favour of careerism (and frankly I am astonished by how many good people in the SNP are still in denial), in a year or two Alba may break through suddenly, in the way Sinn Fein took over from the Redmondites. I have joined Alba, though it is generally known I entirely disagree with its enthusiastic espousal of the anti-trans rights narrative. Please don’t discuss that issue in the comments – the entire internet is full of places you can do that.

Most of my readers are not in Scotland, a great many not in the UK. They are much puzzled as to why I went to jail over Alex Salmond. There are two points. The first is that I like to think I should have done the same for anybody who was being framed on false charges by the state, had the matter come to my attention. The second is that I have always admired Alex as the champion of the suppressed Scottish nation.

As I say, he is a much diminished figure at this moment, and here he is addressing the conference of his small party (though I believe the third in Scotland by membership) yesterday. Much of what he says is, by force of circumstance parochial, particularly in the first ten minutes. But I think there may be enough here to give some idea of why the state felt he has to be destroyed.

And why I felt obliged to try and stop them.

With grateful thanks to those who donated or subscribed to make this reporting possible. This article, as with all the content of my blog, is entirely free to reproduce and publish, including in translation.

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Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

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Account number 3 2 1 5 0 9 6 2
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Bank address Natwest, PO Box 414, 38 Strand, London, WC2H 5JB

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Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

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Free, Enduring Love 63

UPDATE: Julian Assange – Looking through my photos, I just came across this one of Stella showing the panel on which Vivienne Westwood embroidered her personal wedding message to the couple. I thought you might like to see it.

It was a cheap, white, trestle table, its thin top slightly bowed down in the middle, of the type made of a weetabix of sawdust and glue with a sheet of plastic glued on top and plastic strips glued to the sides, held up on four narrow, tubular, black metal legs. On it was a register. In front of it stood Stella Moris, looking beautiful and serene with delight. She wore a stunning gown in a light lilac, designed for her by Vivienne Westwood. It had a mild satin shimmer, and appeared both sumptuous and tightly tailored, with an expansively lapeled jacket section diving in to a wasp waist, that the apparently soft billows never intruded upon, no matter how she moved.

Close up, the details on the dress were extraordinary. The cloisonne buttons were uniquely designed and commissioned by Vivienne for this gown, and she had herself embroidered a message of solidarity, love and support on one panel. The long veil was hand embroidered, with bright multicoloured words striding across the gauze. These were words chosen by Julian as descriptive of the Power of Love, and they were in the handwriting of close friends and family who were not able to be inside the jail, including Stella’s 91 year old father. I am proud to say one of those handwritings was mine, with the word “inexorable”. It really was embroidered on looking exactly as I wrote it, as witness the fact nobody could tell what it said. Julian’s chosen motif for the wedding was “free, enduring love”.

Stella in the dress, with Julian’s dad John in the background. Photo: Isabell Jezek

By Stella’s side stood Julian Assange, whom she described to me as “simply the love of my life”, outfitted in a kilt, shirt, tie, and waistcoat, again specially designed by Vivienne Westwood in a purple based tartan, and featuring hand embroidery, lacing and cloisonne buttons. Unlike Stella’s dress, which she later showed us in detail, I have not seen the kilt but am told the design is relatively traditional.

There was a two minute delay at the start of the ceremony as Julian had no sporran, and his brother Gabriel, resplendent in full highland dress for the first time, removed his own sporran and put it on Julian. Both Julian and Gabriel are proud of their Scottish heritage, in each case through their respective mothers.

The British authorities had done everything they could firstly to prevent, and then to mess up, this wedding. Permission to marry had first been formally requested of the prison service in 2020, and in the end was only granted by involving lawyers and threatening legal action. There followed a whole list of antagonisms on which I shall not dwell, one minor example of which was banning me from the wedding and then lying about it.

But now, on the wedding day, the ordinary, working staff of the prison were delighted to be hosting such a happy event. The searches of the bride were distinctly token and friendly. At the security checks, Julian and Stella’s three year old son Max managed to tangle himself so comprehensively around the legs of one guard that he fell over, and the large guard and small boy then had a hilarious mock wrestle on the floor. The guards who conducted Stella through the jail did so as though they were the escort of a Queen.

Gates and steel doors opened before the procession and were locked again behind them, until deep in the bowels of this maximum security prison they arrived in a banal room, oppressive and completely windowless, with plain magnolia emulsioned walls. It was about twenty feet by fifteen feet, and is used as a store room for the adjoining Chaplaincy. At the back of the room were piles of Muslim prayer mats, boxes of red-jacketed Christian hymnals, stacks of cheap chairs and folded trestles.

From which that one cheap trestle had been set up, and a single row of eight chairs in front of it. Present were Julian and Stella, and their permitted limit of six invited guests. These were Stella’s mother Teresa and brother Adrian, Julian’s father John, brother Gabriel, and Julian and Stella’s two children, Gabriel (4) and Max (3). One of the torments had been that the UK Ministry of Justice insisted that the two tots counted against the six person limit, contrary to the prison’s original advice.

A very unglamorous photo of the veil I took in Stella’s kitchen, with my illegible “inexorable” in the middle!

Also in the room were the registrar who conducted the civil wedding, the Catholic chaplain and two prison guards, one for each door. Julian was able to hug and hold each of his family as they arrived, even though that was very much against the rules. That kind of physical comfort is something he will have been craving for years, and all eyes were full of tears. Julian’s father John was alarmed by his appearance. Julian was a stooped figure, and worryingly thin, even though obviously very happy in the moment.

The service went ahead as such services do, transcending the grim environment. Light relief was provided by little Gabriel running around and threatening to push each in turn of the room’s two alarm buttons, forcing the guards to chase him around, but in a playful manner. Max, who was disappointed by the slowness in appearance of the promised cake, had fallen asleep bent over at the waist, with his feet on the floor and his head on the chair, as only small children can.

Each person at the wedding was allowed by the registrar to stand up and say a few words about the event and the couple, who having exchanged vows and being pronounced wed, Julian was then invited to kiss the bride, which was perhaps done with more gusto than is usual on these occasions; to the extent that Julian’s brother Gabriel jokingly proffered the bride some tissues!

The legal part of the wedding being over, the couple now received a blessing from the Catholic priest, whose friendship and spiritual and emotional support has been invaluable to Julian during the ordeal of the last few years. The priest had brought a tablecloth and candles, and suddenly the nasty trestle was transformed into an altar. The priest was particularly careful to provide the couple with several more opportunities to kiss during the short ceremony. Then suddenly it was finished.

The authorities had insisted that no wedding photos could be taken, but had eventually agreed that a prison guard could take photos using the prison’s own camera. The prison will eventually give one or two prints of photos of their choosing to Julian, on the condition that they must never be published or made public.

According to the authorities this repression is because photos “could endanger the security of the prison”. Plainly this is a nonsense. How could a picture of the bride and groom, standing in a plain storage room that has no windows, endanger the security of the prison?

Belmarsh prison was comprehensively pictured, including drone footage of the entire jail and lengthy interiors of every part, including the most secure units, in several documentaries including by right wing populist Ross Kemp, in which the Ministry of Justice fully cooperated. The dishonesty of complaining that wedding photos would be a security risk, is a callous and arrogant act by authorities who expect that they can never be held to account.

The truth is that the Establishment has put in years of consistent effort to dehumanise Julian in the public mind. That includes false allegations, ridiculous media stories about him not flushing the toilet, and fake claims that his journalism endangered lives. They simply wish to avoid any public exposure of Julian, the real man, that may challenge their drive to demonise. Wedding photos would never be a danger to the prison, but would be a danger to the state narrative.

This is of course the same reason that Pullitzer prize winning journalist Chris Hedges and I were vetoed by the Ministry of Justice from the original guest list. They did not want words or pictures to convey the love of the occasion or the joy of the family. They could not, however, prevent me from speaking to Stella and to all the guests who were there, and giving you this portrait in words.

After the wedding Julian and Stella were allowed time together – which meant that they were taken to the normal prison visiting room, where they could talk for half an hour amidst the other prisoners who were receiving their visitors, and back with the normal surveillance and restrictions of no touching. This must have been a terrible jolt, preparatory to the still worse jolt of being torn away from the one you love immediately after marrying.

I just cannot imagine how that feels; I suspect few people can.

Stella and Julian’s marriage is indeed a testimony to the power of love, and to the power of hope and human resilience. Just the preceding week their hopes were bruised for the umpteenth time as the Supreme Court refused to hear Julian’s case against the High Court’s agreement with the US appeal on his extradition. Julian faces a possible 175 years in jail under the US Espionage Act, for revealing the war crimes of the very state which is trying to extradite him. As Stella said, to marry in the face of this is both an act of resistance and an assertion of love.

The legal battle goes on, and we shall eventually win.

Those of us who value peace and love and freedom do not often get to feel that we are winning. But we do get days when we can triumph in the affirmation of our values. That Stella and Julian have done. That plain white table witnessed something more romantic than all the tosh of royal weddings and high altars. In Julian’s words, “free, enduring, love”.

They cannot stop that with their steel doors and iron bars.

With grateful thanks to those who donated or subscribed to make this reporting possible. This article, as with all the content of my blog, is entirely free to reproduce and publish, including in translation.

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Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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P&O and the Tory Road to Serfdom 241

What has happened to P&O workers is exactly how deregulated Britain is meant to operate. With British regulations abolished or inoperative and EU regulations void, predatory international capitalists are free to treat workers like property, to be picked up or disposed of at whim, with no consideration at all other than the profit of the company.

Politicians have reacted to the public disgust at the summary sacking of 800 people (disguised as redundancy even though they are to be replaced by cheaper labour), by expressions of disgust, but with no proposals at all to do anything about the particular or the general situation. Nobody has contradicted the statement in the Commons by junior Tory transport minister Robert Courts that “P & O’s finances are a matter for them alone”.

Government ministers, most notably Kwasi Kwarteng, have noted that P&O’s actions are probably illegal, but nobody in government seems to feel the slightest urge to intervene to stop a major company deliberately acting illegally and on a major scale. P&O appears to have calculated that the paltry fines and three month extra salary compensation payouts that may result from illegality are outweighed by the savings it will make. Government fury seems to be confined to the vicious way the redundancies were announced.

DP World treats its British workforce with no more consideration than it treats its Pakistani and Bengali labourers in Dubai, and that fact appears to have rattled Tory ministers. But Tory condemnation has been entirely for the way the redundancies were handled, not for the fact of fire and rehire. The leaked fact we now know, that the government was indeed aware of the redundancies before the P&O staff, rather puts the fake indignation in perspective. That makes it even more unlikely that Johnson did not discuss it in when in Dubai the day before.

But this is all precisely how the system is meant to work. DP World are a major player in the governments Freeports initiative. These are zones where companies, with a hub physically in the Freeport zone and satellites virtually “in” the zone, will be even more exempt from regulation than they will be in the rest of the UK. Plans are already in place to build hostels in the Freeports and bring in workers from Colombia and other sources at £1.40 an hour – exactly the kind of system that operates in the Gulf states.

Employment legislation of course is not the only regulation the Tories are seeking to obliterate. Employment, environmental, child safety, food safety, building standards, there are numerous standards the UK is now ready to revoke or water down as part of the “benefits of Brexit”. The Freeports will be the cutting edge, but across the UK the Tories are planning to allow capitalists to use their muscle with minimal protection for the employee, consumer or taxpayer.

P&O is a sign of the times. That we have no political party in Westminster calling for the nationalisation of P&O reflects the collapse of political diversity in the neo-con UK. The Labour Party has returned to Blair’s policy of acquiescing in all the Tory anti-trade union legislation from Thatcher on. Starmer has come up with an empty slogan about a “new deal for workers’ rights” in response to the P&O debacle. His great new idea appears to be a right to flexible working, which is a very good thing for middle-class mums and I am all for it, but not of much practical help to a ferry worker. To be fair there are some Corbyn remnants in Labour industrial policy, but give Starmer time and there will not be.

There is no salvation to be had from the elite and their stranglehold on the political system and the mainstream media. We have to go back to the basics and build again the notion of horizontal solidarity in society. Liberal philanthropy did once assist the development of a more equal society in the UK, which reached its zenith in the 1970’s, but working class self-organisation, particularly through the union movement, was always essential to societal advance.

We now live in a society where liberal philanthropy is reserved for emoting about distant conflicts or channeled into identity, rather than class, politics. We live in a society where inequality in wealth distribution is returning to nineteenth century levels, but many of those left behind consider themselves too genteel to identify with working people and do anything about it.

I do strongly urge everybody to find out today what union you are eligible to join, and to join it. The paradox is that the unions themselves are so desperate to fit in with the new normal that I myself am excluded from joining a union as a dangerous radical. I have yet again applied to join the NUJ. Their current excuse for keeping me out is that people subscribe to my site and I am therefore not paid per article. This seems to be a rule that Michelle Stanistreet has invented unique to me – John Sweeney, Jonathan Cook, Paul Mason and many others run a subscription model. I remain however determined to join and urge you to join a union too.

The government genuinely is angry about P&O, but not because of what it is doing. Simply the startlingly abrupt way that it has acted has brought a harsh spotlight on the deregulation of the UK and what it entails. British Gas did effectively the same thing more smoothly and with far less publicity.

Jacob Rees Mogg is now tasked with pursuing with gusto a bonfire of rights and protections across the whole sphere of government. If you are a billionaire, great times are coming. If you are anybody else at all, welcome to the world your ancestors struggled out of from the 1830’s on.

With grateful thanks to those who donated or subscribed to make this reporting possible. This article, as with all the content of my blog, is entirely free to reproduce and publish, including in translation.

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Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Laura Murray (no relation!) 147

We should all congratulate Laura Murray on her emphatic victory against the Daily Telegraph and the dreadful apartheid Israel stooge Lord Ian Austin, who I am happy to say have been forced to pay substantial damages. (Update: I originally stated Laura had won her libel case – this was incorrect as the libelers caved in before the case got to court).

As a favour to the Daily Telegraph, I reproduce their apology so people can see it, as it is hidden behind their paywall.

Apart from justice for Ms Murray, the court judgement is important because it affirms a key finding of the suppressed internal report on anti-semitism in the Labour Party, the finding that Corbyn and the staff he brought in were actively trying to improve the party’s handling of anti-semitism complaints, and were certainly not the source of anti-semitism themselves. The analysis I wrote of that 850 page report is to this day the article on this blog with the largest direct UK audience on this site, of well over a million.

It must not be forgotten that Keir Starmer suppressed that report, and it remains suppressed to this day, as he has continued to use false allegations of anti-semitism as his primary weapon to expel non-Blairites from the party. It must also not be forgotten that the report contained compelling, documentary evidence that the Blairite staff at Labour HQ were actively working for a Tory victory over Corbyn in the general elections.

Here is an extract from my article on the report:

The headlines of course have been grabbed by the report’s stunning exposure of the fact that Labour HQ was staffed by right wingers so vehemently anti-Corbyn that they actively wanted the Conservatives to win elections. I think it is important to understand just how right wing they really are. Senior members of staff were messaging each other opposing any increase in corporation tax and opposing re-nationalisation of the railways as “Trot” policies.

The case of the horrible and very right wing John McTernan is instructive. McTernan had taken to writing articles in the Daily Telegraph praising the Tories and attacking Labour, but the Governance and Legal Unit of Party HQ refused to take action against him. They finally took action when he wrote an article urging the Tories to “crush the rail unions” for hampering the operations of private railway companies; but the action taken was to suspend a member who called McTernan out on his Tory support. p.140

From the report:

John McTernan, meanwhile, formerly involved in New Labour and a delegate to 2016 party conference, was repeatedly reported from 25 July onwards for abusive language on Twitter and elsewhere, including describing Labour MPs who nominated Corbyn as “morons”; tweeting twice that Corbyn was a “traitor”; describing “Corbynistas” as racist; telling an SNP MP that he should “Come down to Peckham and try saying that, mate”; calling Corbyn a “Putin-hugging, terrorist-loving, Trident-hater”; and writing in the Daily Telegraph that all of Corbyn’s supporters were “online trolls”.368

No action was taken, and McTernan received the staff decision “No action – removed at referral”. On 18 August, however, Dan Hogan did report a member of McTernan’s CLP, Omar Baggili, who – in response to an article by McTernan in “The Telegraph” urging the Conservative government to “crush the rail unions once and for all” – tweeted at him “seriously John why haven’t you got yourself a Tory membership card. They’re anti unions & pro privatisation like you.”369 Baggili was suspended for “abuse”.

This is by no means an isolated example. One of my favourites is the case of Andy Bigham (pp538-45), who initially came to the attention of the Governance and Legal Unit for suggesting Corbyn was a traitor and Diane Abbot should be “locked in a box”. This was considered insufficient for action to be taken against him, and incredibly this stance was still maintained even when he subsequently posted that he had voted Conservative, urged others to vote Conservative and became the administrator of a Conservative Party Facebook Group.

Meanwhile left wingers were being thrown out of the party for having advocated a Green vote years before they joined, or for calling MPs who supported the Iraq war “warmonger”. The report makes an overwhelming case that the Governance and Legal Unit of the Labour Party failed to take action on accusations of anti-semitism because it was devoting all of its energies to a factional effort to remove Corbyn supporters from the party.

These right wing staff were hoping for Labour electoral defeats in order to get rid of Corbyn. Senior Labour staff were actually hoping Labour would lose its seat in the Manchester Gorton by-election.

27/02/2017, 16:53 – Patrick Heneghan: Just had discussion at strategy meeting We will meet Steve and Andy next Monday – we are looking at all 3 in May but select in Gorton within 4 weeks Katy will speak to you/Iain
27/02/2017, 16:53 – Patrick Heneghan: From karie
27/02/2017, 16:54 – Patrick Heneghan: They didn’t include us in the discussion.
27/02/2017, 16:54 – Patrick Heneghan: Well let’s hope the lib dems can do it….113

It has long been known that there was tension between Corbyn and Labour HQ staff over allocation of resources to key marginals in the 2017 general election. What I had not known prior to this report is that HQ staff set up another organisation (p.92), based in another building, to divert party funds and secretly channel them to the campaigns of their favoured right wing MPs. On p.103 is detailed the horror expressed by Labour Party HQ staff at the Labour Party’s good performance in the 2017 election. People were “sickened” by the exit poll showing the Tories losing their majority.

I shall raise a glass to Laura Murray this evening. I am not sure how many good people have remained inside Starmer’s neo-con Labour Party, but I hope they have been heartened to the fight.

With grateful thanks to those who donated or subscribed to make this reporting possible. This article, as with all the content of my blog, is entirely free to reproduce and publish, including in translation.

 
 
Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

Recurring Donations



 

Paypal address for one-off donations: [email protected]

Alternatively by bank transfer or standing order:

Account name
MURRAY CJ
Account number 3 2 1 5 0 9 6 2
Sort code 6 0 – 4 0 – 0 5
IBAN GB98NWBK60400532150962
BIC NWBKGB2L
Bank address Natwest, PO Box 414, 38 Strand, London, WC2H 5JB

Bitcoin: bc1q3sdm60rshynxtvfnkhhqjn83vk3e3nyw78cjx9
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Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

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Assange Extradition: On To The Next Hurdle 122

With Julian still, for no rational reason, held in maximum security, the legal process around his extradition continues to meander its way through the overgrown bridlepaths of the UK’s legal system. Today the Supreme Court refused to hear Julian’s appeal, which was based on the grounds of his health and the effect upon it of incarceration in the conditions of the United States prison service. It stated his appeal had “no arguable legal grounds.”

This is a setback which is, most likely, going to keep Julian in jail for at least another year.

The legal grounds which the High Court had previously ruled to be arguable, were that the USA government should not have been permitted to give at appeal new (and highly conditional) diplomatic assurances about Assange’s treatment, which had not been offered at the court of first instance to be considered in the initial decision. One important argument that this should not be allowed, is that if given to the original court, the defence could argue about the value and conditionality of such assurances; evidence could be called and the matter weighed by the court.

By introducing the assurances only at the appeal stage – which is only on points of law and had no fact-finding remit – the USA had avoided any scrutiny of their validity. The Home Office have always argued that diplomatic assurances must simply be accepted without question. The Home Office is keen on this stance because it makes extradition to countries with appalling human rights records much easier.

In saying there is no arguable point of law, the Supreme Court is accepting that diplomatic assurances are not tested and are to be taken at face value – which has been a major point of controversy in recent jurisprudence. It is now settled that we will send someone back to Saudi Arabia if the Saudis give us a piece of paper promising not to chop their head off.

It interested me in particular that the Supreme Court refused to hear Julian’s appeal on the basis there was “no arguable point of law”. When the Supreme Court refused to hear my own appeal against imprisonment, they rather stated their alternative formulation, there was “no arguable point of law of general public interest”. Meaning there was an arguable point of law, but it was merely an individual injustice, that did not matter to anybody except Craig Murray.

My own view is that, with the Tory government very open about their desire to clip the wings of judges and reduce the reach of the Supreme Court in particular, the Court is simply avoiding hot potatoes at present.

So the extradition now goes to Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, to decide whether to extradite. The defence has four weeks to make representations to Patel, which she must hear. There are those on the libertarian right of the Tory party who oppose the extradition on freedom of speech grounds, but Patel has not a libertarian thought in her head and appears to revel in deportation, so personally I hold out no particular hope for this stage.

Assuming Patel does authorise extradition, the matter returns to the original magistrate’s court and to Judge Baraitser for execution. That is where this process takes a remarkable twist.

The appeals process that has just concluded was the appeal initiated by the United States government, against Baraitser’s original ruling that the combination of Julian’s health and the conditions he would face in US jails, meant that he could not be extradited. The United States government succeeded in this appeal at the High Court. Julian then tried to appeal against that High Court verdict to the Supreme Court, and was refused permission.

But Julian himself has not yet appealed to the High Court, and he can do so, once the matter has been sent back to Baraitser by Patel. His appeal will be against those grounds on which Baraitser initially found in favour of the United States. These are principally:

  • the misuse of the extradition treaty which specifically prohibits political extradition;
  • the breach of the UNCHR Article 10 right of freedom of speech;
  • the misuse of the US Espionage Act;
  • the use of tainted, paid evidence from a convicted fraudster who has since publicly admitted his evidence was false;
  • the lack of foundation to the hacking charge.

None of these points have yet been considered by the High Court. It seems a remarkably strange procedure that having been through the appeals process once, the whole thing starts again after Priti Patel has made her decision, but that is the crazy game of snake and ladders the law puts us through. It is fine for the political establishment, of course, because it enables them to keep Julian locked up under maximum security in Belmarsh.

The defence had asked the High Court to consider what are called the “cross-appeal” points at the same time as hearing the US appeal, but the High Court refused.

So the ray of light that was Baraitser’s ruling on health and prison conditions is now definitively snuffed out. That means that rather than the possibility of release by the Supreme Court this summer, Julian faces at least another year in Belmarsh, which must be a huge blow to him just before his wedding.

On the brighter side, it means that finally, in a senior court, the arguments that will really matter will be heard. I have always felt ambivalent about arguments based on Julian’s health, when there is so much more at stake, and I have never personally reported the health issues out of respect for his privacy. But now the High Court will have to consider whether it really wishes to extradite a journalist for publishing evidence of systematic war crimes by the state requesting his extradition.

Now that will be worth reporting.

—————————————————–

 
 
Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

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Paypal address for one-off donations: [email protected]

Alternatively by bank transfer or standing order:

Account name
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Account number 3 2 1 5 0 9 6 2
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Bank address Natwest, PO Box 414, 38 Strand, London, WC2H 5JB

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Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

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Schroedinger’s Evidence 180

You be the judge.

At my appeal last week against imprisonment for journalism, judges opined that my sworn evidence at my trial had been “so self-evidently untrue as not to require cross-examination”, and even that my evidence had never been accepted by the court as existing. They also stated that contempt of court being “summary proceedings”, there was no need to hear my evidence before sending me to jail.

Yet, as I swore on oath, I quite assure you every single word is true. Here it is, as censored by the Crown Office to protect the identities of those who made false accusations against Alex Salmond.

No contrary evidence was produced by the Crown at trial from anybody to refute my evidence. I ask you to answer two questions:

1) Do you think this is “so self-evidently untrue as not to require cross-examination?
2) Why do you think the legal Establishment are so anxious that this evidence does not exist at all?

AFFIDAVIT
of
CRAIG MURRAY, redaction Edinburgh, EH10 redaction

At Edinburgh on the TWENTY FIFTH day of AUGUST 2020, in the presence of David James Finlay Halliday, solicitor and notary public, Halliday Campbell WS, solicitors, redaction, Edinburgh, EH16 redaction, COMPEARED CRAIG MURRAY, redaction, Edinburgh, EH10 redaction who being solemnly sworn hereby DEPONES as follows:-

1. My name is Craig Murray, I reside at redaction, Edinburgh, EH10 redaction. I am 61 years old, a retired diplomat, now a historian and journalist.

2. I was Rector of the University of Dundee (2007-2010) and an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Lancaster School of Law (2005-9). I am the author of books including Sikunder Burnes, Master of the Great Game (2017), The Catholic Orangemen of Togo (2010) and Murder in Samarkand (2007). The website academia.edu lists over 130 academic peer reviewed articles referencing my work.

3. I was British Ambassador to Uzbekistan 2002-4. Other roles included Deputy High Commissioner to Ghana (1999 – 2002), Deputy Head (Equatorial), Africa Department FCO (1997-9), First Secretary, British Embassy, Warsaw (1993 – 1937), Head of Maritime Section, FCO (1991-3) and Head of Cyprus Section, FCO (1989 -91).

4. Special responsibilities included Head of FCO Section, Embargo Surveillance Centre (1990-1), Alternate Head of UK Delegation to UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (1991-3) and Head of UK Delegation to the Sierra Leone Peace Talks (1998-2000).

5. I have been awarded the Sam Adams Award for Integrity (USA) 2005 and the Primo Alto Qualita Della Citta di Bologna (Italy) 2006 and am an Officer of the Order of Mono (Togo). I have turned down three honours from the British state, OBE, LVO and CVO on grounds of Scottish nationalism, the last two being in the personal gift of Her Majesty the Queen.

6. As a journalist in new media, my output has been focused on my own website, which is nowadays my primary source of income. My articles have however been published in newspapers including the Guardian, Independent, Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, and very many others both nationally and internationally.

7. I have been shown paragraph 11 of the Lord Advocate’s written submissions, which suggest that I published material not in the public domain because the stated purpose of my blog is to use insider knowledge of government to interpret contemporary events.  What I said is not a reference to acquiring material from inside the Scottish Government and publishing it.  It is a reference to using my experience at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to provide authoritative commentary on, and interpretation of, contemporary events, whether in Scotland, the United Kingdom or the wider world.

8. In August of 2018 I read the salacious account published by the Daily Record of an alleged sexual assault by Alex Salmond on a civil servant in Bute House. Aspects of the story appeared to me highly unlikely, in particular the willingness of the civil servant to simply obey his instruction of going to the bedroom and lying on the bed. On August 26 2018, I therefore published an article on my blog expressing this opinion.
https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2018/08/a-short-article-not-mentioning-alex-salmond/

9. I made no attempt to discover the identity of the civil servant involved, but I did make strenuous efforts to discover who had leaked the story to the media, calling and meeting a wide range of contacts in Edinburgh and Glasgow. To my surprise, I discovered with a high degree of certainty that the leaker was Liz Lloyd, Chief of Staff to Nicola Sturgeon. I also discovered that she had a personal history with the journalist concerned and did not link it in my mind to anything wider than that.

10. In January 2019, I published an article following Mr Salmond’s resounding victory in his judicial review case against the Scottish government. My article focused on the abuses of civil service procedure in the pursuit of Alex Salmond by Leslie Evans and Judith Mackinnon, and called for them both to be sacked.
https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2019/01/the-salmond-stitch-up-the-incredible-facts-and-why-mackinnon-and-evans-must-be-sacked/
11. The article concluded that if Nicola Sturgeon failed to act against them, it might indicate that she was herself involved in the campaign of false allegation against Alex Salmond.

12. As a result of this article, Alex Salmond, with whom I had only very slight prior acquaintance, invited me to meet him in the George Hotel in Edinburgh. Here, for the first time, he told me that Nicola Sturgeon had been behind the process designed to generate false accusations against him. He said as well as Mackinnon and Evans, Liz Lloyd was responsible for the actual orchestration.

13. Mr Salmond further said that the Scottish Government had made every effort to withhold vital evidence from Lord Pentland, who had ordered a process of commission and evidence on the available documentation. It was on the day that witnesses from Nicola Sturgeon’s private office were due to give evidence as to her own knowledge and involvement, that the Scottish Government suddenly conceded the case rather than have this evidence heard.

14. Mr Salmond further told me that there was a massive police operation underway to try to get accusers to come forward against him. This was going to ludicrous lengths. He showed me an email from one woman to him, in which she stated that she had been called in and interviewed by the police because many years ago Alex Salmond had been said by another person to have been seen kissing her on the cheeks in a theatre foyer. The woman stated she had told them it was a perfectly normal greeting. She wished to warn Alex of the police fishing expedition against him. He understood that over 400 people had been interviewed by the police.

15. He said those interviewed by the police had included all the personal protection officers he had as First Minister. They had all said they had seen him do nothing wrong, and they were watching him very closely, as was their job. At least one of these policemen, now retired, had been given a rundown of the evidence by the policeman sent to interview him. The retired officer challenged the interviewer as to how he could be involved in such a corrupt stitch up. He stated that the fact it was a stitch-up was evidenced by the fact all the accusations emanated from the same small coterie, there was not a single accusation from an outside or independent source.

16. That observation stayed with me as I followed and investigated the case over the next year and it remains a key fact. I was strongly inclined to believe Alex Salmond. I am of much the same generation of the Scottish political class and it is a small country. We tend to know each other or of each other. I had never in forty years heard a hint of gossip surrounding Alex Salmond and sexual behaviour, with the single exception of a rumoured redacted attachment with redacted. But that had not involved any rumour of unwanted advances by Mr Salmond, quite the opposite ; it was rather widely believed in nationalist circles that she had set her cap at him. The common joke was that redacted was a booby prize.

17. It had been impossible to follow the judicial review case without concluding that a very unfair process had been undertaken against Alex Salmond, and that it was impossible this could have happened without the knowledge and approval of Nicola Sturgeon. That was a shocking realisation to an Independence supporter like myself. But what Alex Salmond was now telling me went further, which was that Nicola Sturgeon was involved in the orchestration of fake complaints against him. This was fairly astonishing on first hearing.

18. I asked what the motive could be. Alex replied that he did not know ; perhaps it lay in King Lear. He said that he had genuinely intended to quit politics and had lined up a position as Chairman of Johnstone Press, which had fallen because of these allegations. But he had retired from the party leadership before, and then come back, and perhaps Nicola had concluded he needed a stake through the heart. He had made plain to her that he was not happy with her lack of progress towards an Independence referendum following the Brexit vote.

19. Alex Salmond was plainly very unhappy. He said that he believed that Nicola was banking on his loyalty to the SNP and to the Independence movement, thinking that he would not split the party by revealing what or who was behind the allegations against him. At this crucial time, a Salmond/Sturgeon split could derail the chance for Independence and have a truly historic effect. I asked him directly whether this meant he did not want me to publish this information at the moment. He confirmed I should not publish. This conversation was in confidence but, as my blog was highly influential within the Independence movement, he thought it vital that I know the truth as matters develop.

20. I told him that Sturgeon’s hostility towards him seemed to be longstanding. I recounted a story I had been told by Robin McAlpine, of an occasion shortly after his resignation when Alex Salmond had arrived at the Scottish Parliament for a function and the First Minister’s Office had refused to sign him in. Alex replied that this was true ; it was particularly embarrassing as the occasion had been to hand over a large cheque for funds raised for charity following a campaign he had initiated as First Minister. They had been forced to do the photoshoot in the rain outside instead.

21. I advised Alex Salmond that he should continue to fight any allegations vigorously and should not worry in the least about any consequential damage to the SNP or the Yes movement, which were both very robust. If the SNP leadership were behind the attacks on him, it was much better that people know.

22. I also told him I knew exactly how he felt, having been myself subject to false accusation when as British Ambassador I blew the whistle on UK Government collusion with torture in the War on Terror. To be subject to a fit-up, particularly by those you knew and considered friends, was extremely disorienting. I was probably one of the few people in the UK who knew precisely how he felt.

23. The meeting concluded with Alex making the observation that he blamed himself for having established far too centralised a system of power in Scottish Government and the SNP, and not taking account of how far that was open to abuse by a person of ill-will.

24. In June 2019 (I do know the precise date, time and venue but to give it might aid identification of my source with deleterious consequences for them) I met with a person well known in the Independence movement who informed me that they had been present at a meeting with Nicola Sturgeon and key members of her inner circle, including ministers, which had gamed the possible outcome of the Salmond affair. My source was trusted as a Sturgeon loyalist,

25. The view of the meeting was that if Alex Salmond could be convicted on just a single count, he would be destroyed politically forever, which was explicitly the objective. He would be on the register of sex offenders and branded a rapist in the public mind, even if the actual offence convicted was knee touching. I was also told that the Law Officers were confident of a conviction for something, which is why the multiplicity of charges. They apparently advised that, faced with a whole raft of charges, juries tended to compromise in the jury room to reach agreement and convict on a lower charge.

26. What struck me, both at the time and still, was that it was impossible to understand the account as given without it involving of necessity corrupt collusion between Nicola Sturgeon’s ministers and aides and the Crown Office over the handling of the Salmond case and the charges being brought.

27. I directly asked my source why they had been regarded as so trustworthy as to be included in such a meeting. They replied that they were generally highly supportive of « Nicola » and her leadership and had been on the fringes of her inner circle for a while. But they were not happy with the « fitting-up » of Alex Salmond, which they described as « unnecessary ».

28. I was aware that in telling me this my source was playing a double game. I was a British diplomat for over twenty years and a member of the Senior Management Structure of the FCO for over six. Obtaining confidential information from inside government circles, and assessing the credibility of the source and the information, is a core skill set for a diplomat, and I was a highly successful diplomat, becoming the UK’s youngest Ambassador.

29. I considered, using the FCO learnt criteria, the access and motivation of my source and my background knowledge of them, all of which I researched further. My conclusion was that this was a highly credible source with good access. This also squared with my impression ; they had seemed straightforward and no inconsistencies had appeared under question. I had known them for some years. I believed their account, and I still do.

30. At a later date, but substantially in advance of his trial, I informed Alex Salmond in broad terms of this conversation.

31. Equally crucially, this proved not just entirely consistent with all the further information I received, but a good explanation of it. In March 2020 I had explained and briefly shown to me by a source with good access the content of evidence related to the Salmond trial, much of which was to be excluded from the trial itself by the judge as collateral.

32. This material included the message from Peter Murrell, Chief Executive Officer of the SNP, to Sue Ruddick, Chief Operating Officer, to the effect that it was now the right time to put pressure on Police Scotland to move forward against Alex Salmond. It included the message from Ms Ruddick (I do not recall the recipient) to the effect that the problem was with Police Scotland refusing to detail precisely what evidence they required. If they would specify, then she could get that evidence for them. It included the message from Leslie Evans, Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government, after the Scottish Government had abandoned its judicial review case, to the effect that they had lost a battle but won the war.

33. It included the message from redacted to another complainer to the effect that she had a plan that would enable them to have a strongly detrimental effect on Alex Salmond but have anonymity. It included the message from redacted to the effect that she did not want to attend any further meetings regarding a possible complaint if redacted were going to be present as redacted made her feel pressured rather than supported. It included the message from Ian McCann to the effect that he would sit on redacted‘s complaint until it became necessary to deploy it. It included a number of messages from redacted which gave the impression she was playing a central role in orchestrating and organising complainers, but I do not recall any specific details of those particular individual messages.

34. Even more crucially, this account was consistent with what actually happened at the trial. In common with many observers, I was unimpressed by the performance of Alex Prentice for the prosecution and the truly pathetic and hopeless nature of a number of allegations. The inclusion of daft allegations like the « hair pinging » incident or the easily disproved hand on the knee in the car, are universally agreed to have weakened rather than strengthened the prosecution’s case when there were much more serious incidents admitted to have some basis in truth. Nor did these minor incidents contribute to « Moorov », being of a much lesser order than the main charges. The only way I could make sense of the Crown’s approach was in the light of what had been explained to me months earlier, the idea that the jury might settle on a lesser charge as a form of compromise. So here again, as in other ways, subsequent events are entirely consistent with what I was told in June 2019, and I am confirmed in my belief of corrupt collusion between the Crown Office and Nicola Sturgeon’s office.

35. I should state that I did not take notes at any stage in this investigation, in any meetings, and I am speaking entirely from memory here. That is why I am not giving verbatim messages but my memory of them. I have no doubt my memory is correct in essence. All of these messages are in the Crown’s possession and I trust will be produced to support this statement.

36. Again, my not taking notes reflects FCO training not to write down sensitive information outside of a fully secure environment but rather to remember. In a case involving sexual abuse, I was particularly concerned not to take notes that, if lost or overseen, might identify individuals.

37. In August of 2019, I learnt that my friend the veteran investigative journalist Laurie Flynn had been digging into the events which led to the Court of Session judicial review, and had an article written. I offered to host it on my blog. It was extremely interesting and highlighted the role of redacted, a name that was coming up again and again.

38. I therefore published Laurie’s article on 23 August 2019, and added further comments particularly on the role of redacted, whom I was beginning to consider a rather sinister figure. At this time I had no idea redacted. Indeed, it is very strange indeed, and quite out of order, that redacted was such an active member of the Scottish Government judicial review committee which had decided to contest the civil case, at great expense, and was to decide to concede it, at great expense.

39. In November 2019, I was told by a senior contact within the SNP whom I have known for many years (not the same source from June) that a deal had been struck between Peter Murrell, redacted and redacted whereby redacted would make an allegation of attempted rape against Alex Salmond, and Murrell would redacted return to front line politics redacted. The cold-bloodedness of this infuriated me. By around this time I had learnt the identities of, I believe, all of the complainers, not from a single source but by asking around my contacts. It was not difficult.

40. I realised that something extraordinary and morally disgusting was happening. If the public knew the identities of those being put up to make allegations, and just how close to Nicola Sturgeon they were, they would immediately understand what was happening. But the convention protecting the identities of those making allegations of sexual assault, made such allegations the perfect vehicle for a positive campaign to frame on false charges, while the perpetrators of this conspiracy to pervert the course of justice had the protection of the courts against exposure.

41. That accusers included :

redacted Nicola Sturgeon. First Minister of Scotland Leader of the SNP ;
redacted Ian Blackford, UK Parliamentary Leader for the SNP ;
redacted Angus Robertson, Former UK Parliamentary Leader of the SNP ;
redacted

It would cause a massive political storm were it known to the public, and raise major and in fact fully justified suspicions about motive. The combination of the anonymity of these accusers, and the exclusion from the trial on the grounds of « collateral evidence » – and continued intention of the Crown Office to suppress – of the messages implicating Peter Murrell and Sue Ruddick in the conspiracy, has resulted in the denial to the Scottish public of information which there is the strongest possible public interest in knowing, in order for them to judge the actions of those in power over them.

42. The weight of all this knowledge, and of not being allowed to tell it, was a heavy burden upon me. In general, I strongly support the principle of anonymity for people alleging they are victims of sexual assault. But this was an absolutely unique case. Where the « victims » are actually those wielding very considerable power in the state, and conspiring to frame an innocent man, is the principle of protection for sexual abuse victims of greater public interest than the public interest in being able to form an informed opinion on the massive abuse of state power which was in train ?

43. It was at this stage that I formed the opinion that there were questions here that urgently needed to be addressed, but it was not for me to decide. I therefore formed the view that, after the trial of Alex Salmond was concluded, this question would have to be put before a court, and, when the time came, I acted upon that conviction.

44. There was a period of several months when I was fully aware of the names of the accusers, and also fully aware that there was no general law or court order in place preventing me simply from publishing. That, however, would not have been responsible journalism and I determined to wait until I could put the matter before the court. The fact I did not publish the names when I could, over months, makes ludicrous the accusation of the Lord Advocate that I intentionally leaked out little bits of information as jigsaw identification.

45. I should explain that I was not enjoying this investigation at all. In fact, I hated it and was becoming quite seriously depressed by the shock of what I was uncovering. I had moved back to Scotland in 2014 specifically in order to campaign for Scottish Independence. I have been a member of the Scottish National Party since 2011. It was horribly disillusioning to discover the corruption at the heart of the Scottish Government.

46. I was also in a deep dilemma as to what to do about it ; the same dilemma Alex Salmond was, and is, in. To expose that it was Nicola Sturgeon who masterminded the conspiracy against him would be a real blow to the Independence movement. But to watch a plot to imprison an innocent man potentially for the rest of his life unfold before my eyes was also horrifying. Particularly as the most cynical part of the plot, to use the court anonymity granted to accusers of sexual abuse, to disguise who was actually behind the allegations, appeared to be working.

47. I should add that in May 2019 I met Alex Salmond in London to record a 50 minute interview for his TV company about my life and career, and that I met him again in approximately November 2019 in London for dinner with my good friend, the journalist Peter Oborne. On neither occasion was there substantive discussion of the charges against him.

48. On 21 November 2019, the Crown released substantial details of the charges against Alex Salmond. On 22 November, I looked through the newspapers and every Scottish newspaper had massive front page coverage of the accusations against him, in detail. The front page headline of the Herald read « 10 women ; 14 sexual offences ; Alex Salmond accused ». The details of all charges were printed on the front page, which had no other content. There were two other full pages on it inside.

49. The front page of the Scottish Daily Mail had the headline « Salmond in the dock » and the sub-heading « Former SNP Chief appears at High Court to deny 14 sex offences, including attempted rape, while First Minister ». There was no other story on the front page. There were eight full pages of further coverage inside.

The Daily Record front page had « Salmond on Trial the Charges : 1 attempted rape, 1 intent to rape, 2 indecent assaults, 10 sexual assaults, In the Dock ; 10 women accuse former First Minister of attacks. » There were two further full pages inside.

The Scottish Sun had « Salmond Rape Bid at Bute House  Ex-First Minister sex rap ; 10 women, 14 charges ; « pinned a victim down » and no other story on the front page.

The Daily Express had « Salmond Made Naked Rape Bid – Full details of 14 sex charges revealed ; Claims involve 10 women over 6 years ; I am innocent says ex-First Minister » and no other story on the front page, with four more pages inside.

The Scotsman had « Salmond, the charges ; Former First Minister accused of lying naked on top of woman and trying to rape her in Bute House » and no other story on the front page.

50. Broadcast media took the same tone. I was deeply concerned by the entire tenor of the press coverage, which appeared to be highly hostile to Salmond and present matters in a way that would be bound to influence potential jurors against him. I was also surprised by the sheer detail in the charges which the Crown Office had presented to the media.

51. This worried me because it creates a huge imbalance in media coverage and thus in public opinion. The Crown can release salacious detail about attempted rape while lying naked on top of somebody in bed, and the media can echo this to the heavens. But from that moment, nobody can publish anything to contradict the Crown without being in contempt of court. It seemed to me that, in these circumstances, the Crown ought to have been a great deal more restrained in the amount of salacious detail it was making available. Certainly, there was nothing in what was happening which would contradict the information I had been given of the Crown Office being party to a political plot to destroy Salmond.

52. In mid January 2020 I took part in an AUOB march through Glasgow which took place in a major storm. It was followed by a press conference at which I spoke and then by a joint strategy meeting with Plaid Cymru, all in soaked clothes. I have heart and lung conditions of longstanding and the over-exertion and hypothermia resulted in an ambulance being called later that evening. I refused hospitalisation because I was too busy.

53. However, the scare led me to write my « Yes Minister Fan Fiction » article of 18 January 2020 because, as the article plainly states, there were things I would not wish to die without having told.

54. It was, however ,a challenge to work out how to tell them without being in contempt of court given the charges against Alex Salmond. I therefore very carefully used a number of strategies not to be in contempt of court. Not to evade contempt of court charges ; actually not to be in contempt of court.

55. Perhaps the most vital strategy was what I would call post-dated cheque information. By which I meant, to leave information that people would not understand the ramifications of now, but would after the trial or once further evidence emerged. This applies most clearly to the redacted deal of redacted.

56. In January 2020, it was not widely known at all that redacted. Therefore, when I wrote : « I was thinking more of his wife, Permanent Secretary. redacted » my readership had no idea what I was talking about.

57. As with other information recounted above, it is remarkable how precisely events as they have unfolded have proven my sources were right. It is now notorious in Scottish political circles that the National Executive of the SNP last week adopted measures which effectively redacted, and did so in order to redacted. Many articles have appeared in the media to that effect. I regret that, redacted identity still being protected, I am not able to republish my article to show that I knew in advance and show what lies behind it. Nobody reads old articles on the blog ; very few people read articles below the first two on the homepage, and it is rare for articles to be read at all once they fall off the homepage (about two weeks). This is particularly true as Google de-ranks alternative or independent news sites.

58. At the time I wrote this article there was no order in force against publication of names. I nevertheless decided not to do that. I did not name redacted, instead using the alias « marmalade ». This was a private joke to myself referencing redacted. I was not in fact particularly thinking of redacted, or I would have called him « Keiller ».

59. I also did not give the names of either Sturgeon, Evans redacted Ms Sturgeon’s private secretary was, of course, male.

60. I further wrote the article as a satirical piece to disguise the nuggets of truth, in the manner of a Yes Minister script. As Jack Point put it :
« Oh winnow of my folly and you’ll find
A grain or two of truth among the chaff »
Satire has been for centuries a licensed vehicle for literary, social and political commentators, from Martial through Chaucer, Pope and Swift to Peter Cook. I find it hard to believe the Lord Advocate is seeking to prosecute satire – or I would have found it hard to believe, had I not been on this extraordinary journey of revelation of the corruption of the Scottish state.

61. I was particularly keen to satirise the Moorov doctrine. A lot of mince is still just mince – it does not turn into sirloin steak just because you have a lot of it. But, in doing so, I was also referencing the account I had been given in June 2019 of the tactics being employed by the prosecution, and seeking to make it plain to the Sturgeon circle that I knew precisely how their scheme was supposed to operate. That would have been entirely obscure to the general reader.

62. I was engaged in booking acts for the Doune the Rabbit Hole music festival, of which I am a director. I came up with the pseudonym « Orpheus » for Alex Salmond because I had just finished booking the Morriston Orpheus Male Voice Choir. I came up with the pseudonym Barclay simply because I was making bank payments.

63. The notion that this cryptic, satirical article, described as fiction, on a personal blog, would influence a jury is fanciful. When compared to the absolute torrent of hostile mainstream media material fed by the Crown Office, as detailed above, and vicious social media comment, aimed at Alex Salmond, the fact that the Crown Office are prosecuting only an extremely rare news source sympathetic to Salmond is, in my view, deeply sinister in the light of everything I have stated so far about the Crown Office – and more is to come.

64. On 21 January 2019, I received an email from the Crown Office requesting me to take down my Yes Minister Fan Fiction article as they considered it to be in contempt of court. I did not consider it to be in contempt of court- I had written it carefully not to be – so I did not take it down.

65. I was concerned about the constitutional implications of the Crown’s letter, and I still am. The Crown gave no indication of why they believed the article to be in contempt of court. When , many weeks later, I received the Lord Advocate’s Petition and Complaint, it appeared to indicate that they considered it was in contempt for jigsaw identification – but that made no sense, as when the Crown wrote to me on 21 January 2019 there was no order in place to protect the identities. The Petition gives no indication that the Crown was alleging that article might prejudice the jury. That argument only arrives months later again, in the Lord Advocate’s written submission.

66. I considered the matter very carefully. The rule of law is not arbitrary. If the Crown, without the intervention of a judge, has the power to censor publication, we are putting liberty in Scotland back several hundred years. The Crown Office cannot just order censorship on entirely spurious grounds thought up several months later.

67. I made a very conscious decision to content myself with the idea that, if they really thought I was in contempt of court, they would bring it to court and a judge could decide whether I was right or they were right. If they genuinely thought my article might influence a jury, given they were well aware of the article and wrote to me about it, the Crown Office had an obvious public duty to act before a trial to prevent that evil. I would have happily turned up in court and argued my case. To wait until long after the trial, after it is far too late to avert the evil they purport to be concerned about, and then make that allegation against me, is plainly pointless and vindictive and, again, sinister.

68. I visited the High Court before the trial to find out how to attend and report. I attempted to register as a journalist, but was given the absolute runaround between the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service and Judicial Communications. I suspect this is simply because their systems are geared to the outdated days of traditional media. I was unable to obtain accreditation, and thus could not be present for the prosecution evidence.

69. I therefore wrote up my commentary on Day 1 of the court case in an article entitled « The Alex Salmond Trial : Your Man Excluded from the Gallery » with some wider commentary about the context of the trial and the laws of evidence in Scotland, but with reporting of events in the trial itself entirely based upon what was published by other journalists inside the court. I was particularly following James Doleman, Philip Sim and Radio Forth and also the Grouse Beater blog which itself was purely drawing on published sources. I stated this explicitly in the article « If you look through the twitter lines, you will see that journalists between them have missed at least three quarters of what is said in court. Because I am not there I am dependent on their selection of material. » I published nothing of the evidence – literally nothing – that had not been published by other journalists.

70. I had clearly at the forefront of my mind the desire to avoid identification of redacted, even though there was at that time no order in place to protect her identity. I am satisfied that I succeeded in this.

71. By my next report on 12 March, I was a little more organised and had sources inside the court giving me additional information. I thus knew fairly well in real time of the order protecting identities, and was still more careful. It was necessary, for the public to have an understanding of the basics of the case, to explain that several of the accusers held senior positions in SNP structures, but I was very careful to ensure I gave no details of actual positions or who worked in Edinburgh, who worked in London etc. This continued throughout the trial.

72. On 18 and 19 March, when I finally gained access to the court, I continued this policy of taking great care. In writing up that evening, I google searched on two particular pieces of evidence to check I was not giving away identities. For example, I searched many combinations of terms for Salmond, Alexander Anderson, helicopter, Stirling Castle and Gleneagles to ensure that my article could not lead to identification of redacted. I was satisfied it could not, and published my account with good conscience.

73. On the other hand, I found that google searches around the meeting of Geoff Aberdein with Nicola Sturgeon on 29 March very readily brought up the fact that redacted. I therefore amended my draft to delete reference to her presence at that meeting, even though that meeting is, from a political point of view, perhaps the most significant fact to have emerged from the trial, as it shows Nicola Sturgeon to have misled Parliament about when she first knew of allegations.

74. By contrast, the entire mainstream media published details of that meeting including redacted. Stuart Campbell has been pursuing this fact in correspondence with the Crown office. Kirsty Wark repeated this very simple jigsaw identification of redacted in the recent BBC documentary The Trial of Alex Salmond.

75. There is a very good list of articles which included this jigsaw information which I rigorously excluded to be found in the letter from the Crown Office to the Reverend Stuart Campbell of 19 August which you can see here :
https://wingsoverscotland.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/copfs19aug2020-1.jpg

76. I was much more careful to avoid jigsaw identification here than the mainstream media. After I was astonished to be charged with contempt by the Crown Office, I sought objective proof of this by commissioning an opinion poll from Panelbase.

77. This poll, conducted according to industry leading survey techniques, cannot establish whether anybody is correct in their presumed identification of witnesses. But it shows that, of those who believe they have identified witnesses, 66% believe they learnt the identities from TV or newspapers. One person named my blog as a source – in among many more names of mainstream media journalists. The individual who was most named as giving away identities, most named by a margin, was journalist Dani Garavelli. It is of course possible that the individual who named my blog was referring to the re-publication for comment of one of Garavelli’s articles on my blog.

78. I am not a lawyer. But, to a layman, it is remarkable to me that the Crown Office is prosecuting me citing my commentary on Garavelli’s article as contempt of court, whereas Garavelli’s article itself has not led to Garavelli being prosecuted, even though opinion poll evidence shows she was named far more than I as a source of identification. Given that Garavelli’s work is vehemently anti-Salmond while the Crown Office is prosecuting the most prominent pro-Salmond journalist, I would say this is, in the context of all else I have testified, sinister.

79. In publishing all of my accounts of the trial, I was extremely mindful of both the law of contempt of court and of my desire not to identify witnesses. The constraints were not just at the back of my mind, but right at the front of my mind, to the extent that there is highly considered discussion of these issues included in my articles throughout my reporting of the case.

80. But I was also strongly aware of a public duty to inform the public of the defence evidence. As already noted, the Crown had given the media, and the media had extravagantly published, salacious detail of the prosecution’s charges from long before the trial. When the prosecution evidence was led, there was again for the first few days an absolute frenzy of front page, news bulletin leading reporting, again focused exclusively on the most salacious and sensational extracts from what the accusers said in court.

81. Then, when the defence witnesses stood up one after another, without the benefit of anonymity, and gave their evidence under oath, there was virtually nothing. I witnessed the ranks of media in front of the public gallery literally shut their notebooks. Virtually no media reporting appeared of the fact that redacted could not have had her alleged morning exchange with Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh because the latter’s father had died that morning. Nor of the two separate eye witnesses, feet away, who testified that redacted was not groped at the Stirling Castle photocall. No account was given of Janet Watt, line manager, denying she had been told of incidents as claimed. Nor of Alex Bell, who detests Alex Salmond, nevertheless testifying that he did not see the claimed scene by the Jack Vettriano painting. I could go on and on with all the defence evidence which the media did not mention.

82. The general media situation is perfectly exampled in the subsequent BBC documentary, « The Trial of Alex Salmond », broadcast by the BBC on 17 and 18 October and fronted by Kirsty Wark. While purporting to be a day to day account of the trial and adopting a « Day 1 », « Day 2 » etc format, incredibly the documentary simply skipped from Day 7 to Day 10 and missed out the defence witnesses. That is just what the overwhelming majority of the media did – quite deliberately, of course. There can be no serious argument against the proposition that the Scottish mainstream media is overwhelmingly hostile to Alex Salmond.

83. It is a simple statement of fact that the only reason any measurable section of the Scottish population has the slightest idea of what the defence evidence was, is that it was published on my blog. Otherwise they would only have the false mainstream media presentation of highly selective quotes from Gordon Jackson to the effect that Salmond could have been a better man, but inappropriate does not mean criminal, and the deliberately created false impression that the jury was faced with only « he said, she said » decisions. The third party eye witnesses who challenged key aspects of accusers’ evidence went mostly unreported, except by me.

84. In a case with such massive political ramifications, in giving a fair account of the defence evidence I fulfilled a democratic duty I felt a strong obligation to fulfil. I am very proud of my role. And I did it while all the time keeping a very careful eye indeed on the line of jigsaw identification and contempt of court. That I was up to the line I readily admit ; a fast bowler does not deliver from behind the stumps lest he overshoot the crease and bowl a no ball. But I was very careful indeed not to cross the line.

85. It was put to me during the trial (I believe by the court reporter James Doleman, who I know from our both covering the Julian Assange hearing) that the law of contempt of court dictates in sexual abuse cases that the prosecution case can be widely reported but the defence case cannot be reported. The reason is jigsaw identification. He told me as a warning to be very careful.

86. His reasoning went like this. The Crown at the time of charge releases to the media details of all the charges. So they have released, for example, that a hypothetical woman X was assaulted in Bute House on 1 January. So when woman X gives evidence, you can publish it in detail because the Crown had already released it. However, if, in recounting the defence evidence, it were a relevant fact that she had a blue car, you could not mention it, because of jigsaw identification. The fact that her being in Bute House on 1 January would quite literally be a million times more identifying than possession of a blue car was irrelevant. So you could report the accusation but not the defence.

87. I considered this very carefully with regard to my reporting of the case, and it relates directly to the charges against me. It is highly identifying to say that a woman was with Alex Salmond in an official capacity on a visit to China, close enough to him to travel in his car and be with him in the lift. That is all extremely identifying ; everybody reported it because it was part of the prosecution case. Yet there is only one person that can be. But for me to report as part of the defence that she had curly hair – as do over 15% of the population – is jigsaw identification. I considered the argument the Lord Advocate now puts forward, before I published the piece, and considered it patently absurd.

88. I also considered that, if that were truly a statement of Scots Law, then the effect is obviously perverse. That only the prosecution case may be published and not the defence, would mean that even an innocent man found innocent, would forever be damaged in the eyes of the public who would know the detailed accusations against him but not why he was found innocent. That cannot be the intention of the law.

89. Nor can it be the intention of the law, as in the Alex Salmond verdict, that the accusers should even after the not guilty and not proven verdicts, continue a massive media campaign from behind the veil of anonymity against the acquitted man. This appears to me a massive abuse of the court order granting anonymity and I cannot believe that this was the intention of Lady Dorrian when she granted the order. I shall return to this subject shortly.

90. On the morning of 20 March, I was as usual waiting with my ticket to enter the public gallery, when Alex Prentice emerged from a door to the left of a court room entrance, paused and appeared to stare at me before continuing on into the courtroom. The supposed start time for the court came and went with the queue still outside, and then I was approached by two police officers, in front of everyone, and marched from the court. This was very humiliating, particularly as some pleasure was evident among the queue of mainstream media journalists who had come to demonise Alex Salmond.

91. The police were very pleasant but, in reply to my direct question, stated that they had no idea why I was being removed. The court staff at the front door stated the same. I therefore went home.

92. I now know that the court had heard a motion for my exclusion from the prosecution on the grounds of alleged contempt of court. I believe strongly that it was contrary to natural justice that the judge and prosecution should have been discussing me while I stood directly outside the court door, and I was not given any hearing or even accorded the common decency and respect of being informed what was happening. This is in stark contrast to events on the morning of the 10th March when an accredited member of the media, said to have tweeted out an identity – much more than I had done – was permitted to be present while the matter was discussed in closed court and was asked if he had anything to say.

93. My only complaint of the court refers to my own treatment, and, while I believe my treatment was wrong, I accept that the judge had infinitely weightier matters to deal with and was perhaps irritated by this minor distraction. As I stated directly in my article, my impression of both judge and jury in the two days I was permitted in to the Salmond trial is that they were doing their jobs in a highly impressive manner. On 18 March I published :

94. « The Court itself was impressive ; Lady Dorrian presided with exemplary fairness, dealing quickly and sensibly with points that arose on admissibility of evidence. The jury of 15 citizens looked engaged and earnest throughout. The impression of my first day is that it is a process that deserves respect and trust, something I never felt at an Assange hearing ».

95. On 19 March I published :
« There I will bow to the judge – who I continue to find very fair ».

96. After exclusion from the court on 20 March, I wrote an article complaining about the arbitrary manner of my treatment. I also phoned the court for more information, and was eventually called back by the clerk of the court, who could not tell me exactly why I had been excluded, but did tell me that the exclusion was for the duration of the trial, not just for the day. Neither he nor the other court staff of whom I had inquired as to what was happening told me that an order had been made banning the publication of the fact I had been excluded from the court. That seems a quite extraordinarily arbitrary proceeding – not only to ban a journalist from a public trial without allowing him any representations, but to also make it illegal to state he was banned. It sounds like something from a dictatorship, not from Scotland.

97. I have a strong basis in knowledge of human rights from my diplomatic career and have a sound knowledge of the Council of Europe (to whose Parliamentary Assembly I have indeed given evidence on human rights, as I have to the Westminster Parliament Joint Committee on Human Rights and to the European Parliament Committee on Human Rights). I had no doubt that the entire circumstance surrounding my arbitrary banning from court without representation and the banning of any mention of that fact raises serious concerns.

98. I note the Crown Office claim to have written to me at this stage. I received nothing from them, either by email or post. Their letter of 21 January I had received both by email and by post, and had to sign for the postal letter. I do not know what happened about their subsequent purported communication, if anything.

99. Following the verdict, Alex Salmond stood on the steps of the High Court, referred to the evidence he had not been permitted to lead, and stated that a day of reckoning would come when the full truth would be set out, but explained that this would have to be deferred until after the Covid crisis has passed.

100. This came as a massive disappointment to me. Having known all about the conspiracy that lay behind his trial, I had hugely been looking forward to the day when it would be possible to publish the truth about the conspiracy behind these charges. I had assumed that Alex Salmond would himself immediately point the finger at Nicola Sturgeon, Peter Murrell, Sue Ruddick and the other conspirators who could be named because they did not have the court granted anonymity of redacted and others. But I deferred to Alex Salmond’s wishes in not publishing the full truth. As I published in my article of 30 March 2020, « I have, absolutely against my own instincts, deferred to Alex Salmond’s noble but in my view over-generous wish to wait until the Covid-19 virus has passed before giving all the names of those involved and presenting the supporting documents ».

101. The documents to which I referred were those mentioned above ; they proved the culpability of people including Murrell, Ruddick and McCann, whose anonymity is not protected. I was not aware when I wrote that the effort to suppress these documents – which frankly will be key documents in the course of Scottish history – was going to extend beyond the trial, that they would be kept even from the Holyrood inquiry, and that the Crown would seek to deny their use for my own trial.

102. I had been struck by the facts surrounding the exclusion of juror RR. He had been loud in asserting that he believed Salmond to be innocent. I found the circumstances surrounding juror RR’s reporting to the police very suspicious, just as I find the circumstances surrounding the taping of Gordon Jackson on the train very suspicious. If a juror said too much in conversation, a minority of people might know enough to tell him he really should not be talking that way. To walk away and clipe him up to the police seems to me an extreme and entirely unnatural reaction. It seems to me a great deal more likely that juror RR was set up ; particularly as the lady who engaged him in the conversation worked for a Scottish Government agency.

103. I actually drafted all that, but then did not publish it as it would have been in contempt of court. I decided instead to give no details at all. I am genuinely puzzled as to what the Lord Advocate thinks is actionable on that.

104. Unfortunately, Alex Salmond’s declaration of a « covid truce » on proceedings was not matched by the conspirators. They immediately began a concerted campaign to undermine the verdict in public opinion and to attack the reputation of the court and the jury. The campaign was fronted by Rape Crisis Scotland, an almost entirely Scottish Government funded organisation whose funding is under the control of officials whose management line redacted whose story of a knee grab on the very short ride from Pizza Express Holyrood to Waverley Station had been comprehensively debunked at trial.

105. The nine complainers in the case signed a joint letter maintaining their accusations against Alex Salmond, which was carried at saturation levels by the entire Scottish media, and was curious given that the complainers were purported by the Crown to be unconnected to one another. In a whole series of interviews across all Scottish media, Rape Crisis Scotland argued, in effect, that the verdict had been perverse, an example of the justice system failing abused women, and even was used by Rape Crisis Scotland to argue directly for the abolition of jury trials in sexual assault cases.

106. The campaign culminated at that time in an article written by Dani Garavelli for Tortoise Media and repeated in Scotland on Sunday, the Sunday edition of the Scotsman, which it is impossible to read other than as a sustained attack upon the court and the verdict. It was a particularly tendentious piece of work because it again repeated all the major accusations, with sympathetic personal interviews with five of the complainers, while omitting to mention a single one of the defence witnesses or any of the defence evidence that had shown them to be wrong and, in several cases, actually lying.

107. What is more, the Garavelli article again made very plain the identity of redacted by jigsaw identification and potentially of others, including redacted who redacted. It is of definite significance that, in the opinion poll I commissioned to get objective evidence of jigsaw identification, Dani Garavelli was by a significant margin the most named source by the public for complainer identification. The decision by the Lord Advocate to prosecute me, a very rare Salmond supporter with an audience, and not prosecute Garavelli, the media cheerleader for the anti-Salmond cause, appears not just selective prosecution, it is political persecution.

108. The great irony of this is that I am the one upholding the dignity of the court and explaining to the public why a diligent jury reached the sound verdict it did, while Garavelli is attacking the verdict of the court and doing so by omitting the crucial defence evidence that the jury heard. She also characterises individual jury members in her article. Yet it is I, the supporter of the court, who is allegedly in contempt, while the attackers of the court are not. The truth is, of course, that the failed prosecutors are favouring those who support the prosecution ; that these failed prosecutors get to decide who is tried for contempt is an abuse of process.

109. I decided that the best way to deal with the Garavelli article and with the entire avalanche of anti-court propaganda was to write my article « I have a plan so we can remain anonymous but have maximum effect » in which I reproduced Garavelli’s article in its entirety, with paragraphs of my commentary under her paragraphs where appropriate. The Crown production of this article in the bundle given to me has not printed out the contrasting colours, so the court will find it extremely difficult to follow what is me and what is Garavelli. This however is Garavelli :

« When the time came, the foreman stood up and said Not Guilty to 12 of the 13 charges. The verdict of the charge involving woman F – sexual assault with intent to rape – was found Not Proven, which is also an acquittal. None of the verdicts were unanimous. The foreman seemed content with decisions he was conveying, but others were not. One young-ish juror with glasses sat with his head bowed »

Followed by me commenting on Garavelli

« Garavelli has no idea how that youngish juror voted. Here again is a blatant attempt to convey that this was a perverse verdict… Garavelli is incidentally in very grave contempt of court in clearly identifying an individual juror and how she thinks he voted. Garavelli will of course be protected by the Establishment from any consequences of this ».

110. I was absolutely correct on all counts. It is a further example of the extreme consciousness of the law of contempt of court with which I wrote throughout. I had a great deal more respect for the rules of contempt than the Lord Advocate, who plainly only applies them to opponents of his prosecution of Alex Salmond.

111. As the accusers continued their public campaign against the verdict of the court, and continued their conspiracy after the verdict to destroy Alex Salmond politically from behind the screen of court enforced anonymity, I decided the time had now come to put before a court the question of whether that anonymity should be upheld even in these extreme and unique circumstances. The public interest in knowing that it was those in positions of great power in the Scottish Government who had colluded against Alex Salmond might well outweigh the general public interest in anonymity for complainers of sexual abuse.

112. On 31 March 2020, I therefore contacted my solicitor to find a QC to draw up a petition to court for the court to decide. We received a draft application from Craig Sandison QC on 15 April 2020, funded at my own expense. I was considering how to proceed, particularly in the light of Covid lockdown, when I was astonished to find myself charged with contempt of court a week or so later.

113. On 23 April 2020, two policemen came to my door and left on the doorstep a letter which, when I opened it a day later (early Covid precaution!), was from the Crown Office telling me I was charged with contempt of court.

114. Remarkably, within minutes of the police arriving, I received an email from Kieran Andrews of the Times newspaper, stating that

« The Crown Office has confirmed that it has started contempt of court proceedings against you in relation to the Alex Salmond trial. Would you like to comment? « 

We are not children. This is plainly a polite lie. Mr Andrews had not telephoned the Crown office that day and asked « I say, did you happen to charge Craig Murray with anything today ? ». What had happened was that the Crown Office, in keeping with its highly politicised and corrupt behaviour through all of the events which I have here recounted, had phoned a reliably anti-Salmond journalist and tipped him off about the charges against me. I believe that the Crown Office is deeply corrupt.

115. In reading the Lord Advocate’s petition and learning of the charge of jigsaw identification, it seemed to me that his charge was entirely subjective. The Lord Advocate appeared to appreciate the need for some kind of proof, as he prayed in aid a number of tweets as evidence that people had identified. But his understanding of Twitter appeared extremely naive. With a single exception, not one of these tweets showed they had correctly identified anyone (and that single one did not prove I was the reason). On the contrary, many of them were from bad faith actors or Twitter « trolls » with fake identities – « Tamara Patel » is a good example of a long term troll on my account with multiple other identities, including « Harry Johnson » and « James », whose claim to identify from my posts the Lord Advocate foolishly takes at face value. Others show in their Twitter handles that they are dedicated political opponents, i.e. some show union flags and one profile describes a « unionist » and « Rangers supporter ».

116. Nevertheless, in quoting these evidentially valueless tweets the Lord Advocate did seem to be acknowledging the desirability of some objective measure of likelihood to identify, so I set myself to think about whether I could help supply the Lord Advocate’s deficit of reason.

117. I came up the idea that whether or not I had been likely to identify would be objectively demonstrable by obtaining a sufficiently large sample of the population, and that the way to do this was through a professional survey company. I therefore commissioned an opinion poll from Panelbase, the results of which I append and which I believe will assist the court.

118. The survey could not check whether people really know the identities of failed complainers, but it does show that a remarkable 8% of the population believe that they do – that equates to about 350,000 adults in Scotland who think they know one or more identities. The number will have risen since, particularly after the Kirsty Wark BBC documentary which pretty plainly identified redacted.

119. Asked how they know identities, 66% said they knew from newspaper, TV or radio reporting. Given a free field to identify individual sources, seventeen different news sources were named, several multiple times, with a single mention of my website. Eight different journalists were named, some multiple times, and not including me. The most mentioned source as Scotland on Sunday/The Scotsman, where Dani Garavelli’s article appeared, and the most mentioned journalist was Dani Garavelli, who is the prosecution’s biggest cheerleader, and is not being charged.

All of which is the truth as the deponent shall answer to God.

Signed

Affidavit 2

SUPPLEMENTARY AFFIDAVIT
of
CRAIG MURRAY, redacted, Edinburgh, EH10 redacted

At Edinburgh on the TWENTY FIFTH day of JANUARY 2021, in the presence of David James Finlay Halliday, solicitor and notary public, Halliday Campbell WS, solicitors, redacted, Edinburgh, EH16 redacted, COMPEARED CRAIG MURRAY, redacted, Edinburgh, EH10 redacted who being solemnly sworn hereby DEPONES as follows:-

1. My name is Craig Murray, I reside at redacted, Edinburgh, EH10 redacted. I give this affidavit in supplement to the one I have previously given in connection with the contempt of court proceedings brought against me. My intention in doing so is to provide more information for the Court on the context in which I published my articles and tweets, and my reasons for doing so.

2. I was Rector of the University of Dundee (2007-2010) and an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Lancaster School of Law (2005-9). I am the author of books including Sikunder Burnes, Master of the Great Game (2017), The Catholic Orangemen of Togo (2010) and Murder in Samarkand (2007). The website academia.edu lists over 140 academic peer reviewed articles referencing my work.

3. I was British Ambassador to Uzbekistan 2002-4. Other roles included Deputy High Commissioner to Ghana (1999 – 2002), Deputy Head (Equatorial), Africa Department FCO (1997-9), First Secretary, British Embassy, Warsaw (1993 – 1997), Head of Maritime Section, FCO (1991-3) and Head of Cyprus Section, FCO (1989 -91).

4. Special responsibilities included Head of FCO Section, Embargo Surveillance Centre (1990-1), Alternate Head of UK Delegation to UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (1991-3) and Head of UK Delegation to the Sierra Leone Peace Talks (1998-2000).

5. I have been awarded the Sam Adams Award for Integrity (USA) 2005 and the Primo Alto Qualita Della Citta di Bologna (Italy) 2006 and am an Officier of the Order of Mono (Togo). I have turned down three honours from the British state, OBE, LVO and CVO on grounds of Scottish nationalism, the last two being in the personal gift of Her Majesty the Queen.

6. As a journalist in new media, my output has been focused on my own website, which is nowadays my primary source of income. My articles have however been published in newspapers including The Guardian, Independent, Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, and very many others both nationally and internationally.

7. In or around March 2019, and from time to time over several months thereafter, I became aware of information tending to show that senior members of the SNP had sought improperly to involve themselves in the Salmond case. This included meeting with women to urge them to make or persevere with complaints to the police, coordination of complainers and their stories, liaison with the police over charges and attempts to persuade individuals other than the complainers to come forward as witnesses to allegations, which attempts were unsuccessful. I formed the view that these were genuine accounts, as they came from complementary sources who had access to the material under discussion.
I believed this to constitute prima facie evidence of, at the very least, politically motivated efforts to recruit and encourage complainers, and of illegitimate attempts to persuade “witnesses” to give evidence that, taken together, could amount to conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. As this involved some of the most politically powerful individuals and forces in Scotland, I believed there to be the strongest possible public interest in these facts and in publication of them.

8. Before I published many of the articles and tweets that are the subject of these proceedings, I saw the information listed in this paragraph. I was not given copies of any of these documents and have never possessed any, other than Ann Harvey’s email, which was given to my solicitors at Ms Harvey’s request on 19 January 2021 to assist in my defence and is now produced as production 41 and which I can confirm was the version I saw. I wish to make plain the documents were each shown to me briefly on a screen and my recollection of them is from memory. Doubtless there will be minor errors in my recollection but I have no doubt of the purport, gist and individuals involved. The information was:

(a) A series of written communications involving Peter Murrell, Chief Executive Officer of the SNP, and Sue Ruddick, Chief Operating Officer of the SNP. They discussed inter alia a pub lunch or similar occasion between Ian McCann, a SNP staff member working for them, and redacted, one of the complainers in the HM Advocate v Salmond trial. At the lunch, Mr Murrell and Ms Ruddick expected redacted to firm up her commitment to giving evidence against Alex Salmond, and to discuss progress on bringing in others to make complaints. They expressed dissatisfaction at Mr McCann for his performance in achieving these objectives and expressed doubt as to his commitment to the cause.

(b) A communication from Ms Ruddick to Mr Murrell in which she explained to Mr Murrell that progress on the case was being delayed by Police Scotland and/or the COPFS saying there was insufficient evidence, and in which communication she expressed the sentiment that, if the police/Crown would specify the precise evidence needed, she would get it for them.

(c) Text messages from Mr Murrell to Ms Ruddick stating that it was a good time to pressure the police, and that the more fronts Alex Salmond had to fight on the better.

(d) Communications from Ms Ruddick about her visits to a number of locations, including the Glenrothes area, and including in conjunction or discussion with redacted. These communications detail their unsuccessful attempts to find witnesses who would corroborate allegations of inappropriate behaviour against Alex Salmond. They include a report of a meeting with young people who were small children at the time of the incident they were seeking to allege, who did not provide the corroboration sought.

(e) A message from redacted stating that she would not attend a meeting if redacted were also present as she felt pressured to make a complaint rather than supported.

(f) Messages in the WhatsApp group of SNP Special Advisers, particularly one saying that they would “destroy” Alex Salmond and one referring to Scotland’s ‘Harvey Weinstein moment’, employing the #MeToo hashtag.

9. That information formed some of the basis for the articles and tweets I published before and during the trial. I supplemented that information from my own attendance at the trial as a journalist and from other media reports of the trial. In my articles, I sought to provided reporting of, and commentary on, the HM Advocate v Salmond trial, and also to provide wider commentary on the trial and the political context in which it took place.

10. It was in the course of that wider commentary on the trial that I stated my reasonable belief, based on the information I had seen, that the criminal charges against Alex Salmond were the result of orchestrated work by senior members of the Scottish Government and the Scottish National Party.

11. Before publishing my articles and tweets on the wider context of the trial, I saw the information set out at paragraph 8(a)-(f) above. As I have stated at paragraph 3 above, I considered that this information was genuine. I also considered that it showed that: (i) that senior members of the Scottish Government/SNP had sought improperly to involve themselves in the inquiry into Alex Salmond; (ii) they had discussed the possibility of pressuring the police; and (iii) certain of the complainers had felt pressured by the involvement of senior members of the Scottish Government or SNP.

12. I considered that, as a journalist, I acted responsibly and in the public interest in publishing my articles and tweets, and that I did so because of the information I had seen. It was, and remains, a matter of considerable public interest and importance that high-ranking members of the SNP would improperly involve themselves in an investigation into a political rival, and express sentiments such as a desire to obtain whatever evidence the police needed and a desire to pressure the police.

13. I emphasise that my reason for publishing the articles and tweets was what I understood from the information I saw before I published. My intention was not to publish the names of the complainers, but rather the names other members of the Scottish Government/SNP who had engaged in the actions set out above.
All of which is truth as the deponent shall answer to God.

Signed:

—————————————————–

 
 
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The Universal Boosting of Putin 1818

Back in the days when I was one of the British state’s more efficient functionaries, I spoke with British officers who had been in Russia during the Yeltsin period, when they had been able to get up close and effectively inventory the Russian armed forces. (For those who don’t know, I was First Secretary at the British Embassy in Warsaw, I was British Ambassador in Tashkent, and I was taught to be fluent in both Polish and Russian, which included living in St Petersburg as a language student while Ambassador designate).

What we (as I was then a cog in this machine) found was that the strength of the Soviet Union’s Red Army had been massively exaggerated in all our intelligence estimates, on which defence strategy had been based for decades. We had over-estimated the numbers, the mobility and above all the capability of Soviet weapons systems. Much of it was barely functional; the problems with both quality and maintenance were not just the product of the disintegration of the Soviet system, they evidently went back decades.

One interesting thing – and I recall discussing this with a British Brigadier General at the Polish exercise area in Drawsko – was that years of military planning had involved scenarios which revolved around successive defensive lines in Western Europe and eschewed any kind of counter-attacking strategy. That conversation had started because, when the British Army first started exercising on the former Warsaw pact training area at Drawsko, we had to strengthen bridges in Eastern Germany and Western Poland in order to get our tanks there.

We were musing that this had never been considered a problem in cold war strategy, because it was presumed our tanks would never go forward. We now knew they could have, which was interesting the analysts.

The truth, of course, was that it had always been in the interest of MI6, the Defence Intelligence Service, the British armed forces, of their American counterparts, and of all their NATO counterparts, massively to exaggerate the strength of the Red Army. Because the greater the perceived enemy, the more we needed to throw money at MI6, the Defence Intelligence Service, the British armed forces, their American counterparts, and at all their NATO counterparts.

Nothing has changed. Exaggerating the strength of the nominated enemy is still very much in their interest.

It is also, of course, massively in the interest of the arms industry. This is the classic operation of the military industrial complex, which does not just need an enemy, it needs a massive, terrifying, ultra-powerful enemy. Or why would you and I keep feeding the military industrial complex huge sums of money?

We see this operating today. The war profiteers have already made billions from the war in Ukraine. Look at this surge in defence stocks.

The German chancellor has already announced $200 billion of extra defence spending. The market expects to see similar boosts, totalling trillions of dollars across NATO, of money into the arms manufacturers and dealers, as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Yet this is an irrational response. What the Russian invasion of Ukraine has actually revealed is the limitations of Russian power. Those limitations consist both of the capacity of its armed forces, and the desire of its people to be a part of European civilisation, not to destroy European civilisation.

You can pretty well stand inside Russia and throw stones into Kharkiv, where Russian is an everyday language (and locals call the place Kharkov), yet Russia has not yet managed to subdue it. Yet we are supposed to be terrified that the mighty Russian army could roll across Western Europe and its tanks could fight their way through Kiev, Warsaw, Berlin, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris and London? It is plainly an utter nonsense (I address nuclear war later, a quite different proposition).

It says something very interesting about mass psychology that our political and media classes are able to convince the population, both that Russia is an incredible threat to us in our homes, and that the gallant Ukrainians can hold the Russians off. The western political and media class, almost universally, are managing both to crow that Russia is militarily weak, and to claim that we need to throw yet more money at the military industrial complex. As nicely observed by Moon of Alabama.

There are however, even in “respectable” media, a few voices pointing out that what is happening in Ukraine shows NATO defence spending to be already disproportionate. I was very surprised to read this eminently sensible article in Newsweek:

In the longer term, the recognition of Russian military weakness represents a fundamental challenge to U.S. strategy, spending priorities and even its firm hold on the world. It questions Washington’s obsession with a supposed “peer” adversary and the U.S. emphasis on a larger military and ever-increasing defense spending to deal with Russia. Changing the narrative on the Russian military also fundamentally challenges NATO and its European members. Though there might be heightened awareness and even fear of Moscow’s willingness to resort to extreme and even reckless behavior, the reality is that there doesn’t need to be increased defense spending or a renewal of European ground forces….

For Washington, this display of Russian military weakness should be comforting in terms of Moscow’s true military threat to Europe. At the same time though, it exposes the need for a different national security strategy, one that doesn’t imagine Russia as a military equal, and one that doesn’t push Vladimir Putin’s back against a wall.

This war in Ukraine should represent such a moment of epiphany in western political thought.

According to the Russians themselves, Russian military spending is just 5% of NATO military spending. That is about right.

Total NATO spending is over 1 trillion dollars a year. Russian defence spending in 2019 was $65.1 billion a year, just higher than the UK. So nominally Russian spending is a little over 6% of NATO spending a year. Of course, purchasing power in the defence industry makes nominal calculations not entirely helpful. Here is a short link from an excellent discussion from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute of the factors that might make Russian real resources put into defence greater than the nominal total:

Nonetheless, there are strong indications that military goods and services cost less in Russia than in the USA or most of Europe and, therefore, that Russian military spending has a higher purchasing power. For example, unlike the USA and other large European states, Russia still relies on conscription. In addition, Russian career soldiers have lower salaries: for example, in 2019 a Russian lieutenant colonel received approximately $1330 per month, whereas a (lower-ranked) captain in the British Army received more than $4000 monthly. Adequate data to make a similar comparison of the cost of acquiring military equipment is not available.

Converting Russian military expenditure using GDP-based PPP rates (based on data from the International Monetary Fund) gives spending of $166 billion in 2019 (instead of $65.1 billion using market exchange rates). This is still less than one-quarter of US spending of $732 billion. A similar calculation gives Chinese military spending of over $500 billion (instead of $261 billion using market exchange rates).

I would argue that while paying and feeding troops may be indeed be much cheaper in Russia, military hardware costs are much dependent on metals, processors and other internationally traded commodities and an overall comparison to the simple relative cost of living PPP index for Russia is not appropriate. But even using the general IMF PPP calculator, Russian defence spending is, at the very most, 12% of NATO spending.

The idea that NATO has to spend more to match the threat to NATO of Russia is plainly a nonsense.

So those of us who have always opposed NATO’s militarism, NATO’s involvement in illegal wars and NATO’s massive propaganda operation aimed at boosting the funds fed in to the arms manufacturers, the security services and the military, should welcome the opportunity for growing understanding that a large portion of this defence expenditure is not necessary.

The Russian economy is about the size of the Spanish economy. Russian defence spending is, at the highest, 12% of NATO defence spending. Russia is not the great threat to Western Europe. The limit of Russian power has been shown up in its inability quickly to defeat Ukraine, a militarily third rate European power.

But a large section of the western left – including many regular readers of this blog – is not shouting this out. A section of the western left chooses to boost the propaganda of western arms manufacturers by talking up Russian power, claiming the Russian military is massively capable, putting a good gloss on the performance of the Russian military in Ukraine, and insisting that Putin is a strategic genius.

That “left” narrative is music to the ears of NATO and the military industrial complex. So how has the left been manoeuvred into the position of being the amplifiers of the argument of their natural enemies?

The answer, strangely enough, is not intellectual but emotional.

It is rather lonely being a dissident voice in the West, arguing against the consensus of the media and political elite. Even where that political elite completely screws up, as in the invasion of Iraq, where they launched an illegal war, caused the deaths of millions of people, destroyed the infrastructure of a country, yet still lost the war, there are no deleterious consequences for the political elite.

The International Criminal Court is investigating Russian war crimes in Ukraine. It has done nothing effective about western crimes in Iraq, where hundreds of thousands of civilians died.

This level of injustice is hard to stomach. There is a natural yearning for an alternative, for a good power in the world to match the bad power in the world, and to give at least some hope of justice or balance. Thus many on the left have come to idolise Vladimir Putin as the balance to outweigh and thwart the corrupt, warmongering, neo-imperialist Western states.

Syria gave some comfort to this viewpoint. In the war for hegemony that the West has waged all over the Middle East, the contradictions of allying with a country as anathematical to supposed Western values as Saudi Arabia reached their apotheosis. The American-led West was providing arms, finance and logistical and air support to ISIS and closely allied jihadist groups in an effort to overthrow the Assad regime. The western sponsored civil war had already caused devastation and huge refugee flows. Had the western backed jihadists succeeded, the results would have been unthinkable.

Putin saved the world from that, by a small but timely Russian military intervention, and I for one am glad he did. I say that as absolutely no fan of the Assad regime.

So I can sympathise with those who see Putin as the answer to their desire for the West to be counterbalanced. The problem is it is unrealistic. Russia is just not that strong. It has an economy the size of Spain or another second tier Western European state. Any military intervention by Russia that seriously crosses the West is ultimately dependent on nuclear brinkmanship.

The more fundamental point is that Putin is no more a “good guy” than Western leaders. Russia is a massively kleptocratic state where the gap between the extremely wealthy and the exploited general populace is every bit as big as the gap in the West, and until recently was inarguably much bigger. The human rights situation in Russia is poor. In fact in both those respects, the West is moving increasingly to looking like Russia, which is a very bad thing.

Putin’s Russia is no kind of socialist model.

Putin’s image as the strong man of Eurasia is boosted out of all proportion by those on the right who benefit from portraying a powerful enemy: and by those on the left who yearn for a powerful friend. This is the universal boosting of Putin. But in real life he is a much smaller figure, controlling a waning power of very limited resources. He has just made his largest miscalculation. In the last hour the UN General Assembly has condemned the Russian attack on Ukraine. The UN General Assembly is a forum where the US and its allies can normally muster between 2 and 12 votes. They had 141. Russia mustered 5, the kind of position the US, Israel and the Marshall Islands frequently find themselves in. That is the extent of Putin’s diplomatic blunder.

History teaches us it is a huge mistake to attack Russia. The Russian people have an enormous capacity for wartime resilience when attacked. But the plain truth is NATO has never attacked Russia, and though I intensely dislike NATO’s pushing of weapons systems closer to Russia, NATO doctrine has never included plans to initiate war with Russia.

Just as I have frequently stated Russia has never had any intent to attack the UK; to persuade the population otherwise is the everyday job of the military industrial complex.

But the Russian military industrial complex is just as powerful within Russia as the western military industrial complex is here, and the Russian people are just as exploited by their elites as we are in the West. On either side, the offices of heads of government are not the right place to search for the good guys. Everybody gets lied into war.

It is of course a truism that Russian security concerns were made neuralgic by the ever tightening encroachment of NATO and its missiles. It is a valid point. But it is an equally valid point that NATO has never attacked Russia and none of those missiles has ever been fired at Russia. The point of the missiles was never to fire them at Russia. The point of the missiles was to manufacture and sell them at enormous profit margins and provide large salaries and cash funds for politicians, with endless revolving door jobs for ex-military and civilian defence personnel, who all keep the contracts flowing.

We are now in a position where only a severe Russian military setback can reduce the political momentum for more arms spending, more militarism and more censorship of dissenting opinion in the west – and yet many on the left are hoping for a Russian victory. That despite the fact that not only is Putin’s attack on Ukraine illegal, it is an aggressive war with precisely the same spurious justification as the US-led destruction of Iraq; pre-emptive disarmament to prevent possible attack.

To make matters worse, Putin’s attack is popularly seen as justification of the appalling Russophobia that has formed a fundamental part of the Establishment political narrative in recent years. Putin has appeared to justify years of lies by Russophobes.

I first became fully aware of the untruth of the mainstream Russophobic narrative when it was claimed that Wikileaks had published the Clinton material on the rigging of the primaries against Bernie Sanders, in collaboration with Russia. I knew that was definitely untrue. We then saw an expansion of this narrative, including aspects of the official Skripal story that made no sense whatsoever.

As a result of the invasion of Ukraine, popular opinion holds as validated any lunatic suggestion of evil Russian influence ever to emerge from the disorganised brain of Carole Cadwalladr. “Putin has invaded Ukraine. I told you he fixed the 2016 election” is not a proposition that holds up to a millisecond of logical analysis, but logical analysis is the first casualty of war.

Finally, a couple of thoughts on nuclear weapons. Putin has put his nuclear forces at some kind of initial alert level. In a rational world, this would lead to an increased demand for genuine attempts at nuclear disarmament negotiations, but again I fear that is not in the interest of the elites who control governments. NATO’s insistence on pushing missile systems ever closer to a nuclear-armed Russia and continually ratcheting up Russia’s fear of aggressive encirclement, will make it extremely unlikely that Russia will have any interest in disarmament. Which is so obvious, it proves NATO has absolutely no interest in disarmament either.

I have said much which is highly critical of Russia, and rightly so because Russia had started an illegal war. But that in no way reduces the very large amount of blame that attaches to NATO for its absurd militarism and territorial triumphalism, and the complete lack of interest NATO has shown towards finding a less confrontational approach to Russia.

NATO does not defend the interests of the people of Europe. It embodies the interests of the global elite, who benefit from feeding the military industrial complex. NATO is an instrument of the military and the weapons manufacturers. To exist, it needs an enemy. NATO’s role will always be to secure its own existence and its controllers’ cashflow, by creating enemies.

The only good guys in this are the common people of Ukraine, and the unfortunate conscripts in the Russian army. Let us all pray, hope or think on them tonight.

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Ukraine: How Can the War End? 1322

I could not believe Putin really would invade Ukraine, because I could see no sensible outcome for him. I still cannot. Initiating a war on this scale has no legal justification, and no moral justification either. Russian troops are in areas which have no wish to be ruled by Russia.

Those of us who opposed the illegal invasion of Iraq must also oppose the illegal invasion of Ukraine. Whether the Ukrainian government is obnoxious or not is as irrelevant now, as the obnoxiousness of Saddam Hussein was irrelevant then. I am as fed up now with being asked if I support Ukrainian Nazis as I was then with being asked if I supported Saddam Hussein.

It is simply illegal to wage a war for regime change, without the endorsement of the UN security council.

I have great sympathy for Russian security concerns about encirclement by NATO and forward missile deployments. But seeking regime change by invasion in Ukraine could not possibly be the answer. I still have not the slightest idea what Putin seeks to achieve. It is simply impossible – and has been since the annexation of Crimea – that a democratic Ukraine is voluntarily going to elect a pro-Russian government. After this invasion, the only way a pro-Putin regime could be maintained in Ukraine would be by extreme authoritarianism, going well beyond the prevailing system in Russia itself.

Let me put it starkly. This can only finish with a government in Kiev which absolutely hates Putin as now do the Ukrainian people, or with Russia maintaining a puppet regime by extreme repression. There isn’t a way out with a peaceful, neutral Ukraine. Once you try to resolve matters by pure force, you lose that option. If I were Ukrainian, there is no way now I would be agreeing to the demilitarisation of my country.

As for denazification – which certainly is needed in Ukraine – Putin has given the “heroic anti-Russian nationalist” meme of the Ukrainian nazi groups a massive boost. While labelling the entire nation and government as Nazi is just wrong.

I did not think Putin would invade, for all those reasons. I did not even think he would acknowledge moving troops into the Donbass. I was unsure what to argue about that if he did. The Kosovo parallel with the newly acknowledged Donetsk and Lughansk republics is arguable. As a supporter of Scottish Independence, I am open to arguments from self-determination, and you can read Murder in Samarkand on the capriciousness of former internal Soviet borders. But this has gone far beyond that.

Yet we have seen nothing like the simply massive civilian casualties the West inflicted on Libya, Iraq or Afghanistan. Not anything like the same order of magnitude. In the town of Sirte, Libya alone NATO bombing killed 15,000 people. Casualty figures being given for the whole of the Ukraine so far are still in the hundreds, and thank God for that.

Sirte, Libya, after NATO bombing

Either Putin has not entirely willed the means, or his armed forces are resisting obeying his wishes. Russia has not unleashed anything like the kind of firepower that would need to be unleashed to subdue Ukraine. Western media has gone into full war porn mode, but the extent of real fighting is uncertain. There seems to be a great deal of shadow boxing.

I do not know the explanation for this. It seems very possible Putin has underestimated Ukrainian morale, and really believed Ukraine would crumble. In fact, Zelensky is playing a blinder in terms of maintaining morale, however staged his photo-ops. The more pressing question is whether Putin overestimated the willingness of his own military to kill Ukrainians, or whether Putin himself lacks the will. In Grozny, he was directly responsible for civilian casualties on a truly terrible scale, but is he like the West in putting much less value on Muslim lives?

Grozny Destroyed by Russia

To date, Kiev has faced nothing like what Sirte faced from NATO or Grozny faced from Russia – but not because Russia lacks the capacity to do it.

If Putin is himself ready for massive Ukrainian deaths, is his military pulling its punches? I am reminded of the War of Slovenian Independence, where the soldiers of the massively superior Yugoslav army just refused to kill Slovenes. In that case, many of the Yugoslav troops were initially told it was just a live fire exercise, which lends credibility to the idea the same is happening with Russian troops here.

Putin has not improved his negotiating position. My own friends and allies on the left are suggesting that the answer is for there to be a ceasefire and Western agreement to no further expansion of NATO, and a new arms control treaty governing missile deployments. That would certainly be ideal but it is not going to happen.

You have to understand the realpolitik of the Western elite. They will never damage their own interests. That is why the sanctions that would really hurt Putin, targeting companies like BP and Shell over their Russian interests or the real oligarchs like Usmanov, Deripaska and Abramovic, will never happen because they would damage the interests of the British elite. It is why the UK government fly Ukrainian flags but will not let Ukrainians come without visas. They don’t really care about the ordinary people at all.

The NATO leadership now see Putin in a position where he either has to back down and retreat, or inflict massive casualties on the Ukraine and get bogged down there for decades. If they wanted to save the Ukrainian people, this would indeed be the time for West to negotiate. But the lives of ordinary Ukrainians mean nothing to them.

So rather than find Putin a ladder to climb down, they will strike heroic poses, wave Ukrainian flags and send more weapons. I fear Putin will go for the mass deaths scenario. Macho is his entire brand, and his speech last Sunday was worryingly fundamentalist. I do wonder if he is losing the room at home – he spoke of the end of the Soviet Union as a calamity, but Russians under forty cannot even remember the Soviet Union at all. Nobody under 50 can remember it in any kind of functioning order.

One final thought for now. I applaud those brave people in Russia who have demonstrated for peace. Almost 2,000 have been arrested. But remember this – under the Tory government’s new policing bill, taking part in a demonstration in England and Wales not approved in advance by the police could bring up to ten years in prison. Just one example of the rife hypocrisy submerging us all at present.

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Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Your Man With the Petition: My Appeal Against Imprisonment for Journalism, 23 February 167

UPDATE The Cabinet Minister who the judges met, delaying the start of my appeal, may have been Dominic Raab, Lord Chancellor and Justice Minister of England and Wales. Raab was in Edinburgh that day discussing with the Scottish Government the Tory plans to ditch the European Convention on Human Rights. What Lord Justice General Carloway said was that the hearing was delayed because the Scottish Government had called to set up an unscheduled meeting with a cabinet minister. We had all presumed he meant a member of the Scottish cabinet; perhaps not.

Secondly, my former QC John Scott has been in touch to say that he had no doubt that my sworn affidavits were accepted as evidence in the case, and that was the outcome of his discussions on the matter with the Crown. As I said below, I had found the Crown’s assertion to the contrary baffling.

Both these points highlight the extraordinary fact that there is no official recording or transcript of the court proceeding and the public were excluded. Our offer to have a transcript taken and produced at our own expense (as is done by the Assange legal team at his hearings) was also refused.

I should stress that this is not unusual; we were told it is the rule that there are no recordings or transcripts of such proceedings in Scotland. So what happened is whatever the judges say happened, and there is nothing that can be produced to prove otherwise. The more I go down the dark hole of Scotland’s legal system, the more it stinks.

26 February 07.13 END OF UPDATE

Today I was the “petitioner” as my appeal was heard in Court No. 1 of the Court of Session by the nobile officium. This sounds like something from Harry Potter, perhaps an annex of the Ministry of Magic, but is actually the Scottish legal system’s appeal court of last resort.

Here I sat very much as a last resort, getting through the last required hurdle before I can appeal to some judges at Strasbourg with no part in the Scottish Establishment.

Five judges presided, headed by Lord Carloway, the bulldog-jowled Lord Justice General. To his left sat the tall figure of the kindly looking and bespectacled Lord Woolman, and further left Lord Matthews, who looked so strikingly like an old drinking friend of mine from Dundee, that I kept being disconcerted it wasn’t him. To Lord Carloway’s immediate right was Lady Paton, a bright-looking lady, who had an air of intense concentration and took copious notes. On the far right, the bench was completed by Lord Pentland, very engaged, constantly leaning forward, moustache bristling, as though itching to do all the talking himself. Which from time to time happened.

All wore Gilbert and Sullivan costumes and long wigs that looked frightfully uncomfortable. I felt for them.

Proceedings started one hour late. Lord Carloway opened by apologising to the court. The case had been delayed, Lord Carloway stated, because the bench had received unexpected intimation from the Scottish Government that a cabinet minister was coming to see them on an important matter. They had therefore had to delay and meet the minister before starting the hearing.

That is what Lord Carloway said. I faithfully report it. He did not say the cabinet minister’s visit had any connection to my case. He did not say it had no connection to my case. It might have been about judicial appointments, refurbishing courts or covid restrictions, for all I know. Urgent enough to cause an unscheduled cabinet minister to dash, and justify a delay to the hearing.

Roddy Dunlop QC, Dean of Faculty (which is a big deal among Scottish lawyers, head of the profession) then arose to present my case. Dunlop has a delivery of relentless logic, driven home by piercing blue eyes, but disconcertingly has a haircut which must entail going into the barber and saying “Cliff Richard circa 1963, please”. Dunlop’s horsehair wig has to perch behind the quiff.

Dunlop had been planning to speak for two hours, but interruptions from the bench were in the event so constant that he spoke for well over three. I published the written submission he had put in, and do urge you to read it – it is more entertaining than you might imagine. I shall not repeat here points he made from the written argument, except where necessary to explain a judicial intervention.

He opened by saying that this was a unique case. We knew of no precedent in Scotland for a journalist ever having been jailed for contempt of court. He then went on to say nice things about me, detailing my diplomatic career and positions I had held of great responsibility. He said that I had become a whistleblower, revealing terrible abuses of torture and extraordinary rendition, and in that respect had given evidence in person before committees of the Westminster Parliament, European Parliament and Council of Europe.

The bench looked to me particularly unimpressed by this; I am not sure they like whistleblowers.

Roddy Dunlop went on to say that I was a journalist, who had published articles in many mainstream media newspapers, but whose output was mostly published on my blog. That did not however make me any less of a journalist. I was fulfilling the role of a “public watchdog” on matters of public interest, as defined in judgments by the European Court of Human Rights.

I had a genuine belief, which I still held, that Alex Salmond had been the subject of a plot to prosecute him on false charges, and I had an article 10 right under the European Convention on Human Rights to publish that, as a matter of the highest public interest. That had to be the starting point for considering this case.

Both Lord Carloway and Lord Pentland queried whether I could be considered a journalist. Dunlop said that the ECHR case he quoted specifically included bloggers as enjoying the same protection as “public watchdog”.

Dunlop then argued that the test of strict liability in the Contempt of Court Act applies exclusively to publication of information which could interfere with a trial; it specifically does not apply to breaching an order on identification, where on the contrary there has to be an element of wilful disobedience of the court. He cited the Act itself and several cases.

Lord Carloway interjected that the act of publication was itself a deliberate act. That was the intent. Dunlop replied that there was no dispute that the articles were deliberately published; but that was not the same as that they contained intent to identify.

Lord Carloway queried whether this could be true even when the articles were obviously identifying.

Dunlop said yes, intent was crucial. Otherwise, if for example a protected complainer stated that they had been assaulted in a taxi on a certain date, and subsequently someone posted the taxi receipt online as routine public accounting for expenses, that person would be liable for jigsaw identification despite having no intent.

Lord Matthews asked how the court could know if the receipt had been posted maliciously.

Dunlop then moved on to the second ground of appeal, that the court should not have disbelieved the evidence given in my affidavit without cross-examining me and giving me a chance to answer questions on which they had any doubt. He described this as necessary to a fair hearing and natural justice.

Dunlop referred to Lady Dorrian’s judgment, which stated that evidence in my affidavit cast doubt on my claim to have no intent to reveal names. Dunlop stated that was far from a finding beyond reasonable doubt that I had intent to reveal names. The judgement had therefore not found intent to the criminal standard required in law.

Lord Carloway said the Court had no evidence before it that my affidavit had ever been accepted by the court as evidence at all. There was no joint minute to that effect, and there should have been. Dunlop said that indeed it would have been better if there were a joint minute, but that could hardly be held to be the petitioner’s fault. Lord Carloway asserted twice more that there was nothing before him to indicate my affidavits formed evidence in the case, and Dunlop repeatedly asserted that plainly they were evidence. Not to cross-examine was the Crown’s choice.

Dunlop said I had given this evidence by affidavit, as was frequently the case nowadays. My senior counsel had then informed the court that I had nothing to add but was available to answer any questions from Crown or Court. Lord Carloway said that offering to answer questions was not the same as submitting to cross-examination. Dunlop said it was the same. Lord Carloway said no it was not; I had not entered the witness box. Dunlop said that there had been no witness box: it was one of the early virtual hearings, I was not in a courtroom, and that may be some of the cause of procedural confusion.

There was then a slight break while I confirmed to Dunlop that counsel had said I was present (virtually) to be questioned by Crown or Court, and both Prentice and Dorrian had stated they did not wish to ask questions. Dunlop confirmed with Crown senior counsel Alex Prentice QC that this was indeed what had happened.

Carloway then said that witnesses were often not cross-examined in civil cases; it did not mean their evidence was accepted. He added that evidence “may be so manifestly untrue as not to require cross-examination”.

I recall Lord Pentland as saying this, but my notes say Lord Carloway. Either way, I had the distinct impression they intended this to convey their opinion of my own affidavit as “manifestly untrue”, and viewed it as closing the question.

Dunlop seemed somewhat thrown by the relentless negativity from the bench and the suggestion that my affidavit was so manifestly untrue as not to require cross-examination. He concluded that it remained his submission that, where the defendant faced imprisonment, they had a right to have doubts put to them, for them to give an answer that may change the view of the court.

Lord Carloway replied that the Crown’s scepticism of the defendant’s affidavit had been fairly put in the Crown’s written submissions.

Dunlop then moved on to the third ground of appeal, that the court had adopted too narrow a test in finding that identification had taken place to a section of the general public, such as work colleagues, whereas the correct test in the Act was to the general public, the public at large.

Lord Carloway said that it was obvious that the complainants were all close to the former First Minister; therefore very little extra information could identify them and great care should be taken. What if, for example, the parliamentary committee had been able to identify them? Would that in Dunlop’s opinion be a sufficient test?

Dunlop replied it would not. The parliamentary committee were not the general public, and had a great deal of other information available. Dunlop stated that my difficulty had lain in explaining what had actually happened in the Salmond trial, and what Salmond’s defence was, while still protecting the identities, as I had explained in my affidavits.

Carloway replied that the mainstream media appeared to have no difficulty in covering the trial without publishing identifying information. Dunlop said that he would question that. The mainstream media published similar information to the petitioner. Dani Garavelli in particular had published a great deal of identifying information. Yet none of these were prosecuted.

Dunlop had said the unsayable. The judges had all displayed simultaneous physical reactions to this, which in the nearly empty courtroom was particularly noticeable.

Lord Carloway said that Dunlop had said this case was unique. That was because the mainstream media knew how to avoid committing contempt. That is why there were no instances of the mainstream media being prosecuted for jigsaw identification. Lord Pentland reiterated that the reason no mainstream media were prosecuted was because they understood the law.

And at this point we broke for lunch.

After lunch, we reverted to the question of whether I ought to have been cross-examined before being disbelieved, on which Dunlop had found another precedent, which plainly said so, during the lunch break. Lord Pentland stated that it was common practice for a witness not to be cross-examined and then for their account to be dismissed as incredible. Lord Carloway said that it was frequently the case in criminal cases that complainers were not cross-examined by the defence on the grounds their evidence had no weight.

We then went back to the question of what was the proper test for identification. Lord Woolman observed it was “a tricky one”. He asked Dunlop what then the proper test should be? This struck me as the first open question asked of Dunlop, not phrased in terms of overt hostility.

Dunlop replied that the proper test should be whether, in combination with material that was already fully in the public domain, somebody had wilfully published the last piece of the jigsaw in order to enable identification.

Dunlop went on to give two examples. In the first, he stated that in their open and public opinion on whether my petition to the nobile officium was eligible, the court had stated that I published that a complainer had been nominated to a named parliamentary constituency. This was inaccurate. Had I published that, and had the complainer in fact been nominated, we accepted it would indeed have run a grave risk of identification to the general public. What I had in fact published was that she had been – unsuccessfully – seeking nomination. That fact was not available to the general public and only known to a small number of people within her own party.

I cannot explain the second example Roddy gave without repeating information Lady Dorrian found to be identifying. It was of a similar nature in relating to information only a very small number of people would know and which the public could not find. Lord Woolman asked how this was squared with google. Dunlop replied that information of the class he was describing was not available to a google search. Dorrian was therefore in error in finding it to be identifying.

Dunlop then moved on to his fourth ground, that of the article 10 right to freedom of speech. Dunlop said that this case represented the biggest single interference with freedom of speech in the modern history of Scotland. There was simply no precedent for jailing a journalist like this. Somebody with no criminal record and a history of public service, fulfilling a public watchdog role, had been jailed for eight months. Despite having a heart condition and a weeks old baby.

Lord Pentland intervened to say that this could be because there was no precedent for the committing of such a large contempt. It was also in the unique context of the Salmond case, in which there was unprecedented public interest and therefore unprecedented need to protect the complainers. That would explain the unique consequences.

Dunlop said that to jail a journalist must be necessary in law and consistent with democracy. The law must also be foreseeable. It was impossible for a journalist to know what pieces of the jigsaw might be known to a small group of people, and therefore to know if he was providing the last piece. Lord Pentland replied that was why extreme care must be taken. Dunlop said the care could become so extreme as to have a chilling effect which made any effective reporting of sexual assault cases impossible.

Dunlop then moved on to his fifth ground of appeal, that many of the identifications found by Lady Dorrian had never been alleged by the Crown or mentioned in proceedings; so the defence had no chance to rebut them. This was heard in comparative silence.

The Crown then opened, and Alex Prentice QC, a dry and inoffensive man, spoke very briefly. He said that the Crown had already set out its position in its written submissions (I am told I am not allowed to publish these). The Crown had alleged intent against me and the court had plainly found intent, so the question of strict liability did not in fact arise.

Lord Pentland came in to help Prentice by suggesting a precedent case to him, not in the bundle of authorities, which indiicated intent was not required. Pentland asked if that case might be useful to support his assertion that there was no need to prove intent. Prentice agreed, and said “we” had been discussing that very case over lunch. It was not plain to me who “we” were.

On the question of my not having been cross examined, Prentice stated that he had personally held a number of meetings with my then QC, John Scott, to discuss evidence. These meetings were covered by confidentiality, but the crown had “certain concerns” about my giving evidence. It had therefore been agreed between the counsel that my affidavits would be entered, and I would not be cross-examined: but this did not mean that my evidence was accepted.

I was much startled to hear that.

Prentice stated that on what was the correct test for identification, the Crown had alleged that I had embarked on a publication of a course of articles designed, when taken together, to reveal identities to the general public. This was accepted by the court and no question therefore arose. Furthermore the Crown had alleged that, taken together, all of the complainers were identified by all of the articles combined. It was therefore not necessary for the Crown to have cited each individual example of identification.

Lord Pentland said that contempt of court was a summary procedure anyway so there was no need to consider these questions.

Theoretically what happened next was that Dunlop had a chance to rebut. However he was so interrupted and overwhelmed by the bench, that my notes at this point seem to consist almost entirely of what the judges said.

Lord Pentland said that Dunlop had claimed it was unique for a journalist to be jailed, but the circumstances of the Salmond case are unique, and it was essential that the identities of complainers in sexual assault cases be protected, for fear of deterring other victims from coming forward.

Dunlop said we had always accepted that, and the Salmond case was also of unique public interest.

Lord Pentland said that we were looking at a course of conduct by a person who Dunlop had stated was a highly educated man who had held responsible positions. But these were aggravating factors not mitigating factors. He said that the need to protect identities had been stressed to the public and reiterated “Mr Murray’s previous positions of responsibility are an aggravating factor in his conduct”.

Dunlop cited an ECHR ruling which stated that journalists should not be imprisoned, except in extreme circumstances such as hate speech or incitement to violence. In this case, the appropriate punishment would have been a fine.

Lord Pentland said that this case was analogous to hate speech and incitement to violence; and my sustained campaign to reveal the identities of these women could indeed have incited violence or social media hate against them. Dunlop said no such thing had happened and there was certainly no such intent.

Lord Matthews said that the protection quoted in the ECHR case extended to investigative journalism and this was not investigative journalism. It said this applied to press offences, but was this a press offence? Was I a journalist?

Lord Woolman asked whether, if I could be called a journalist, did that mean just anybody could be a journalist who published on social media?

Dunlop replied, anybody who was fulfilling the role of a public watchdog, according to the European Court of Human Rights. Lord Pentland said that particular judgement appeared to refer to NGO’s rather than individuals. Dunlop said it specifically included bloggers. Pentland said he thought it mainly meant NGO’s but they would look at it.

Lord Carloway said that it was not plain this was a press offence. In mainstream media cases, the contempt was always acknowledged and an apology proffered. However in this case, a key factor in the sentence had been my “total and utter lack of remorse”, which continued.

Dunlop said it was my position that I had not intended to identify anybody. Lord Pentland said that it was common practice for sentences to be increased for lack of remorse from those who insisted on protesting their innocence after conviction.

Dunlop said my position was that I never intended to identify anybody; I had attempted to protect identities and I believed I had succeeded in that. Nobody had in fact been identified. But I would indeed be very remorseful if identification had occurred. Carloway asked, in a tone of incredulity, if we were saying that nobody had been identified as a result of my articles. Roddy Dunlop said that was indeed what we were saying. There had never been any credible evidence that identification had occurred. Carloway said he would find that most unlikely.

And that was it.

———————————————-

That is my best shot at a fair description of today in court, leaving out anything said that could identify a witness in the Salmond case. It is of course my perception, and a distillation of a full day, and in the circumstances I can hardly be unbiased. It is not my fault the court excluded the public from attending and so limited your access to other perceptions.

We will get a written judgement in probably around a couple of months. Of course judges can be testing an argument or playing Devil’s advocate. But my honest perception was of real hostility from the court. I think you will find the above is a fair guide to what the judgement will say. My perception is that judges’ hearts were worn on sleeves today.

The attempt to claim that my affidavits have never been accepted as evidence in the case is chilling.

My affidavits, of course, state the grounds of my belief that not only was there a plot against Alex Salmond, but that the politically corrupt Scottish prosecutorial system was a part of the plot. They list the documents I had seen, in the possession of the Crown and which the court refused to disclose, that led me to understand the plot. They name Salmond’s accusers and explain their roles (which part I have never published), and outline the roles of Peter Murrell and Sue Ruddick. The links to Nicola Sturgeon are outlined.

It is therefore unsurprising that the Crown had “serious concerns” about my evidence and did not want to cross-examine me in public and give me the chance to justify it.

It is more surprising that there is now an effort to claim my affidavits do not form part of the case at all. Carloway stoutly maintained they were not evidence. When we go to the European Court of Human Rights, those affidavits will be seen by judges who are not a part of the Scottish establishment. But if the affidavits were never evidence in the case, then they cannot be presented at Strasbourg.

How the judges can maintain my affidavits, given under oath, were not evidence I do not know, especially as they are repeatedly referred to in Lady Dorrian’s judgement. How could the court judge evidence which did not exist? I have never had any expectations from this court, but this is a key point I shall be looking for in this judgement.

I am afraid that I am going to have to renew my appeal for funds to help with the legal costs. Fighting these kinds of actions is simply crippling. Your dedication to freedom and support have so far saved me from personal bankruptcy, but we now need to raise a further £80,000 immediately – of which we readers have very kindly donated over half since I made the renewed appeal two days ago.




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Our Argument in Court Today: Full Text of Our Submission

My appeal against imprisonment for contempt of court is to be held in Edinburgh High Court at 10.30am today. The gallery will be closed and the public excluded. Here however is the full text of the written arguments we have submitted as the basis for today’s hearing.

I promise you that they are less dull than that sounds. It is to me astonishing that these arguments have to be made. It is also significant that the appeal hearing is expected to take a full day, whereas my original trial was rushed through in under an hour. How and why it was rushed through becomes obvious if you read the arguments below.

Here is the full text of the submission for my appeal, lodged with the court:

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICIARY, EDINBURGH
UNTO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE LORD JUSTICE GENERAL, THE LORD
JUSTICE CLERK, AND LORDS COMMISSIONERS OF JUSTICIARY
HCA/2021/000014/XM
WRITTEN SUBMISSIONS
IN RESPECT OF THE
PETITION TO THE NOBILE OFFICIUM
BY
CRAIG MURRAY
PETITIONER

INTRODUCTION

1. The petitioner invites the court:
(i) To find and declare that the decision of the High Court of Justiciary of
25 March 2021 to find the petitioner in contempt of court was wrong,
unjust and contrary to law; and
(ii) To find and declare that the sentence of eight months’ imprisonment
imposed on 11 May 2021 was, in all circumstances, excessive and
contrary to law.

2. These submissions will firstly address the five grounds on which the petitioner
appeals against the finding of contempt. They will then consider the two
grounds on which the petitioner appeals against sentence.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

3. The facts are set out in §4-12 of the petition and the petitioner does not seek to
rehearse them again in these submissions. The focus of this petition is: (i) the
court’s decision on 25 March 2021 to find the petitioner in contempt of court;
and (ii) its decision 11 May 2021 to impose a sentence of eight months’
imprisonment.

4. The court’s decision of 25 March 2021 was limited in its findings of contempt,
as compared to the terms of the petition which was presented by the Crown. In
particular:
a. The court did not find that the petitioner had breached the order made
in terms of s. 4 (2) of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 on 23 March 2020
(§28-31 of the court’s Opinion); and
b. The court did not find that the petitioner had breached ss. 1 and 2 of the
Contempt of Court Act 1981 (§32-42 of the court’s Opinion).

5. Accordingly, the court’s finding was limited to a finding that certain articles
published by the petitioner amounted to a contempt of court, in that they
breached the terms of the order made in terms of s. 11 of the Contempt of Court
Act 1981 on 10 March 2020. That order was in the following terms:
“The court, on the motion of the advocate depute, there being no objection, made
an order at common law and in terms of Section 11 of the Contempt of Court
Act 1981, preventing the publication of the names and identity and any
information likely to disclose the identity of the complainers in the case of HMA
v Alexander Elliot Anderson Salmond.”

6. The court found that articles published on the following dates breached the
terms of the s. 11 order: (i) 18 January 2020, (ii) 11 March 2020, (iii) 18 March
2020, (iv) 19 March 2020 and (v) 3 April 2020. It accepted that other articles
referred to in the Crown’s petition did not breach the order. In doing so, the
court applied the following test (set out at §59 of its Opinion):
“whether the material is such that, judged objectively, it was likely to lead to
identification of the individuals concerned as complainers in the case.”

THE PETITIONER’S ROLE AS A JOURNALIST
7. At the outset, is important to understand the role being exercised by the
petitioner. The petitioner is a journalist. He has published work in The Guardian,
The Independent, The Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday and other outlets. He also
operates his own website, which hosts the majority of his most recent
publications. In that sense, he is not a journalist for the mainstream press but a
journalist in “new media”. He has authored a number of non-fiction books. His
journalistic work includes reporting on matters relating to Scottish and UK
politics, providing analysis which is informed by his former work as a
diplomat. He reports on matters which are undeniably in the public interest,
such as the trial of former First Minister Alex Salmond and the extradition
proceedings in relation to Julian Assange.

8. The petitioner made significant attempts to be accredited as a member of the
press for the purposes of reporting on the Salmond trial but was unable to gain
accreditation, for reasons that are unclear, notwithstanding his compliance
with various requests from the SCTS press office.

9. The contempt of court proceedings raised against the petitioner relate to a
number of articles which he published in relation to the prosecution of Alex
Salmond. The petitioner’s view was that Mr Salmond had been the subject of a
conspiracy which had colluded to see him prosecuted for charges he did not
commit. That was the petitioner’s genuinely held belief. Not only was it
genuinely held, but it was reasonably held; the petitioner having seen a number
of written communications which he concluded demonstrated the involvement
of various parties in such a conspiracy. Reference is made to §31-33 of the
petitioner’s affidavit of 26 January 2021. Of note, copies of those
communications are understood to be in the hands of the Crown and an
application for disclosure of those documents was made but refused by the
court on 19 January 2019. The petitioner has accordingly been denied the
possibility of vouching the reasonableness of his belief before the court.

10. Notwithstanding the petitioner’s credentials and the importance of his subject
matter, the court appears to have drawn a distinction between the petitioner
and those in the mainstream press. At §4 of its Statement of Reasons refusing
permission to appeal to the Supreme Court, the court said:
“The applicant describes himself as a “journalist in new media”. Whatever that
may involve, it is relevant to distinguish his position from that of the
mainstream press, which is regulated, and subject to codes of practice and ethics
in a way in which those writing as the applicant does are not. To the extent that
the submissions for the applicant make comparisons with other press contempts,
and the role of mainstream journalists, this is a factor which should be
recognised.”

11. Such a distinction cannot be justified. As a preliminary point, it is not an issue
which was put to the petitioner or on which any substantive submissions were
made. It was not a distinction drawn by the Crown. Had the court considered
it to be a material issue, the petitioner ought to have been afforded an
opportunity to lead evidence with regards to his journalistic credentials and
make submissions with regards to the alleged distinction.

12. More fundamentally, the distinction is wrong in principle. It is an outdated
one which fails to take account of the current media landscape. It is also entirely
inconsistent with the approach taken by the Strasbourg court in relation to the
protections afforded to journalists by Art. 10 ECHR. That assessment is a
functional one. It does not depend upon accreditation or registration with
specific media platforms. It is a protection to all those who exercise the function
of a “public watchdog”. That much is clear from the Strasbourg court’s decision
in Magywa Helsinki Bizottság v Hungary [GC], no. 18030/11, 8 November 2016, at
§168:
“Thus, the Court considers that an important consideration is whether the
person seeking access to the information in question does so with a view to
informing the public in the capacity of a public “watchdog”. This does not
mean, however, that a right of access to information ought to apply
exclusively to NGOs and the press. It reiterates that a high level of
protection also extends to academic researchers (see Başkaya and Okçuoğlu v.
Turkey [GC], nos. 23536/94 and 24408/94, §§ 61-67, ECHR 1999-IV; Kenedi,
cited above, § 42; and Gillberg, cited above, § 93) and authors of literature on
matters of public concern (see Chauvy and Others v. France, no. 64915/01, §
68, ECHR 2004-VI, and Lindon, Otchakovsky-Laurens and July v. France
[GC], nos. 21279/02 and 36448/02, § 48, ECHR 2007-IV). The Court would
also note that given the important role played by the Internet in enhancing the
public’s access to news and facilitating the dissemination of information (see
Delfi AS v. Estonia [GC], no. 64569/09, § 133, ECHR 2015), the function of
bloggers and popular users of the social media may be also assimilated
to that of “public watchdogs” in so far as the protection afforded by
Article 10 is concerned.”

13. It is respectfully submitted that the petitioner’s role and intentions are a key to
the context in which the present appeal must be considered. There is no
evidence that the petitioner sought deliberately to identify complainers for any
vindictive purpose. He was not publishing gossip. The complainers were not
the focus of his articles. The central purpose of his articles cannot fairly be
described as the identification of any complainers. The petitioner was
publishing information in relation to a genuinely held belief that there had been
very serious misconduct at high levels of public and political office. He sought
to use his platform to act as a public watchdog and report on those concerns.
The fact that his views do not accord with the analysis shared by much of the
mainstream press does not mean that he is not entitled to the full protection of
Art. 10 afforded to any other journalist. The petitioner does not challenge the
fact that the complainers’ Art. 8 rights warrant respect but to the extent that
there is any conflict between those rights and the petitioner’s Art. 10 rights, it
is important to bear in mind the purpose of the petitioner’s journalistic work.

14. Having set out that context, these submissions now consider each of the
grounds of appeal.

APPEAL AGAINST FINDING

Ground 1: the court erred in applying a rule of strict liability

15. That the court applied a rule of strict liability with regards to contempt arising
from breach of the s. 11 order is clear from the terms of §59 of its Opinion:
“Amongst submissions made for the respondent was a submission that any
breach of the order was unintentional, and as a result he should not be found in
contempt. We reject the suggestion implicit in that submission that
intent to breach the order is a requisite of a finding of contempt for
having done so. The respondent’s intent in publishing is beside the point.
The question is whether the material is such that, judged objectively, it was
likely to lead to identification of the individuals concerned as complainers in the
case.”

16. In doing so, the court erred in law. Certain breaches of the Contempt of Court
Act 1981 are subject to the strict liability rule, as defined in s. 1 of the Act.
However, the Act provides a closed list of conditions which must be satisfied
in order for the strict liability rule to apply. Of relevance to the present
proceedings, s. 2 (2) provides:
(2) The strict liability rule applies only to a publication which creates a
substantial risk that the course of justice in the proceedings in question will be
seriously impeded or prejudiced.

17. The court did not consider that the articles which were found to breach the s.
11 order created a substantial risk that the course of justice in the proceedings
would be seriously impeded or prejudiced. The court considered and rejected
the Crown’s submissions on this very issue from §32-42 of its Opinion.
Accordingly, the test in s. 2 (2) of the 1981 Act was not met; strict liability did
not attach to any publication.

18. There is no basis to import a test of strict liability into parts of the Act in which
no such test is imposed by the text. To do so offends against the intention of
Parliament; had it sought to apply a test of strict liability in relation to s. 11, it
would have done so. It also offends against the common law presumption of a
mental element in relation to statutory offences, recently reaffirmed in Pwr v
Director of Public Prosecutions [2022] UKSC 2. Given the penal consequences of
a breach of s. 11, the same presumption ought to apply as to those that create
criminal offences. The terms of s. 2 are clear: strict liability only attaches if the
conditions in s. 2 are met. The natural consequence of that language is that it
does not attach in any other situation. Of note, Gordon on Criminal Law Volume
2 (4th edn) (2017) does not refer to s. 11 in its discussion of the strict liability test
under the 1981 Act: §58.16-58.20. For all these reasons, the court erred in
applying a strict liability test, which is not justified by the terms of the statute.

19. In the absence of a strict liability test, this court must consider what the
appropriate mens rea is in order to justify a finding of contempt of court in
relation to breach of a s. 11 order. The mens rea is clearly understood in relation
to contempts arising from breach of interdict. The court ought to find beyond
reasonable doubt that the contemnor’s actions were in wilful disobedience of
the court order: McMillan v Carmichael 1994 SLT 510. A party may therefore be
in breach of the terms of a court order but nonetheless not in contempt of court:
Sapphire 16 S.A.R.L v Marks and Spencer plc [2021] CSOH 103. Breach of the order
is only the first of a two-stage test.

20. The same test ought to apply to alleged breaches of a s. 11 order. A s. 11 order
is, in effect, a statutory form of interdict. It is a court order which prevents a
party from doing something, in this case publishing certain information.
Breach of a s. 11 order is accordingly very closely analogous to a breach of a
common law interdict. The mens rea of wilful disobedience protects the same
interests as in breach of interdict proceedings: to preserve the dignity of the
court and to punish those who disrespect the court’s authority. Without wilful
disobedience, it is hard to see how disrespect has been shown to the court. The
approach set out above is all the more necessary in an era of online news and
social media, where the risk of inadvertently causing a jigsaw identification is
higher than in the past.

21. The court’s error in applying a test of strict liability is a material one in
circumstances such as these, where significant, unchallenged evidence was
placed before the court that the petitioner did not intend to breach the s. 11
order: on the contrary, he was striving not to do so.

Ground 2: the court erred in making findings contrary to the petitioner’s
affidavit when he had not been cross-examined

22. The petitioner’s position before the court was that he had never intended to
breach the terms of the s. 11 order and had, on the contrary, taken particular
care to avoid doing so. In support of this evidence, the petitioner produced two
affidavits. The petitioner’s stated intention is clear on the face of the affidavit
dated 25 August 2020:

I. §44 – “There was a period of several months when I was fully aware of
the names of the accusers and also fully aware that there was no general
law or court order in place preventing me simply from publishing. That,
however, would not have been responsible journalism.”
II. §54 – “It was, however, a challenge to work out how to tell them without
being in contempt of court given the charges against Alex Salmond. I
therefore very carefully used a number of strategies not to be in contempt
of court. Not to evade contempt of court charges; actually not to be in
contempt of court.”
III. §58 – “At the time I wrote this article there was no order in force against
publication of names. I nevertheless decided not to do that.”
IV. §64 – “I did not consider it to be in contempt of court – I had written it
carefully not to be – so I did not take it down.”
V. §70 – “I had clearly at the forefront of my mind the desire to avoid
identification of [Woman H]”
VI. §72 – “On 18 and 19 March, when I finally gained access to the court,
I continued this policy of taking great care. In writing up that evening,
I google searched on two particular pieces of evidence to check I was not
giving away identities… I was satisfied it could not, and published my
account with good conscience.”
VII. §73 – “I therefore amended my draft to delete reference to her presence
at that meeting.”
VIII. §79 – “In publishing all of my accounts of the trial, I was extremely
mindful of both the law of contempt of court and of my desire not to
identify witnesses.”
IX. §103 – “I actually drafted all that, but then did not publish it as it would
have been in contempt of court. I decided again to give no details.”

23. The Crown did not cross-examine the petitioner in relation to the contents of
his affidavit. Neither did it lead any of its own evidence; choosing simply to
rely upon the agreed facts. Neither did the court put any questions to the
petitioner, notwithstanding his senior counsel having made clear that the
petitioner would be willing to answer any questions arising. The court was
accordingly faced with a detailed account by the petitioner, sworn on oath, that
he had: (i) not intended to breach the s. 11 order; and (ii) taken various steps to
avoid breaching the order.

24. Notwithstanding this, the court rejected the petitioner’s account. At §67 of its
Opinion, the court rejected the petitioner’s explanation of his intention.
Quantum valeat, it is notable that the court chose to do so in circumstances
where it had already held that a test of strict liability applied. Such an approach
continued in the court’s Sentencing Remarks, in which it is noted that it
appeared that the petitioner was “relishing the task he set himself which was
essentially to allow the identities of complainers to be discerned…” This is, again,
contrary to the unchallenged evidence of the petitioner. The petitioner makes
three points regarding the course of action adopted by the court:

25. Firstly, in circumstances where the petitioner faced significant penal
consequences, the court ought not to have disbelieved the petitioner’s account
of his subjective intention without having given him an opportunity to explain
any matters causing doubt, either by way of cross-examination or questioning
by the court. Where a decision-maker has doubts about the honesty of a party,
as a matter of fairness, those doubts ought to be put to the party in question: R
(Balajigari) v Home Secretary [2019] 1 WLR 4647 at §55. Such a principle of
natural justice ought to apply consistently across administrative and judicial
decision-making processes. If anything, the onus is greater when a party faces
potential imprisonment. The comments of the Lord Justice-Clerk (Cooper) in
McKenzie v McKenzie 1943 SC 108 at 109 bear repetition:
“On the other hand, the most obvious principles of fairplay dictate that, if it is
intended later to contradict a witness upon a specific and important issue to
which that witness has deponed, or to prove some critical fact to which that
witness ought to have a chance of tendering an explanation or denial, the point
ought normally to be put to the witness in cross-examination.”
Such a role would ordinarily be fulfilled by the Crown but, in sui generis
proceedings such as this, if the court intends to criticise a contemnor’s account,
it ought to put the questions itself. Accordingly, it was unfair not to give the
petitioner an opportunity to answer any questions in relation to his subjective
intention.

26. Secondly, the court heard no submissions as to whether it could disbelieve the
petitioner’s affidavit, absent any contradiction. That is a matter on which it
should have allowed submissions to be made: Robertson v Gough 2008 JC 146 at
§94.

27. Thirdly, the court’s reasoning with regards to the petitioner’s intention draws
too broad an inference from conclusions it drew about specific articles. At §67
of its Opinion, the court rejects the suggestion that the petitioner had “never at
any time had the intention of publishing the names of complainers in the Salmond
trial”. In contradiction, the court points to three matters (at §70 of its Opinion):
(i) the petitioner’s supposed intention in writing the Yes Minister article; (ii) a
tweet of 19 January 2020 in relation to the Yes Minister article; and (iii) a
comment made by the petitioner in his 12 March article. It is respectfully
submitted that these three adminicles are not sufficient to justify an inference
(to the criminal standard of proof) that the petitioner intended to identify the
complainers in the other articles to which the court’s finding of contempt
relates. Intention in relation to one incident does not imply intention on any
other occasion. Of note, the Yes Minister article predated the s. 11 order. The
court did not direct its mind as to whether the existence of the s. 11 order might
have affected his intention with regards to the March articles.

28. Accordingly, the court erred in law in the way it handled the petitioner’s
unchallenged affidavit evidence.

Ground 3: the court erred in applying a test of a “particular section of the
public”

29. The court considered the issue of whether potential identification by a
particular section of the public was sufficient to make a finding that the s. 11
order had been breached at §54-58 of its Opinion. The court concluded:
“The question which must be asked is whether in its context the material was
such as was likely, objectively speaking, to lead to identification of the
complainers. If the material would be likely to enable a particular section of the
public to do so that would be sufficient.”

30. In doing so, it erred in law. The error is material. The court has, in effect,
imposed a significantly lower threshold to satisfy it that a s. 11 order has been
breached than is created by the terms of the Act. It is much more
straightforward to demonstrate that a piece of information may assist a
particular section of the public in identifying a complainer than the public as a
whole. The court has not found that, if the higher threshold of the public as a
whole was applied, the articles would still have been in breach of s. 11.

31. The court appears to have subsequently disavowed the test it set out in its
Opinion, in its Statement of Reasons refusing permission to appeal to the
Supreme Court. At §8 it notes that it did not limit any findings to the extent
that the complainers were in fact only identifiable by a particular section of the
public. This disavowal is unusual. The court devotes five paragraphs of its
Opinion to this issue. It concludes that the test is whether “a particular section
of the public” could identify the complainers. There is nothing to suggest that
a broader factual conclusion was reached, such as that any member of the
public could have identified the complainers from the articles. Accordingly, the
court’s comments at §8 of the Statement of Reasons are entirely inconsistent
with the scheme of its previous Opinion. There is no objective basis for
concluding that, having identified a specific test in §57 of its Opinion, the court
then applied a different one.

32. The terms of s. 11 are clear:
In any case where a court (having power to do so) allows a name or other matter
to be withheld from the public in proceedings before the court, the court may
give such directions prohibiting the publication of that name or matter in
connection with the proceedings as appear to the court to be necessary for the
purpose for which it was so withheld.

33. A s. 11 order is accordingly only competent in circumstances where the court
has made an order to withhold a name or other matter from “the public”. A
s.11 order is ancillary to the court’s primary power to withhold the name or
other matter from the public during proceedings: A v Procurator Fiscal, Dundee
2018 JC 93 at §27. The s.11 order accordingly cannot be stricter in its terms than
the common law order which is to exclude matters “from the public”. The s.11
order must be made “for the purpose for which” the common law order is
made. That purpose was to prevent identification by the public at large. Any
s.11 order must therefore be read as preventing the publication of information
which may give rise to the identification of complainers to the public at large.
There is no basis within s.11 of the Act (limited as it is in its terms) to suggest
that a s.11 order may restrict the publication of any matter which may identify
a complainer to a particular, potentially very small, section of the public.

34. The approach of the court also renders the reporting of any proceedings in
relation to sexual offences entirely unworkable. A journalist or editor cannot
know what information is already available to particular subsets of the public.
In almost all cases it is likely that some members of the public (particularly
those who are close to the complainers) will already hold a nearly complete set
of jigsaw pieces. For those members of the public, any further piece of
information may form the final piece of the jigsaw, which reveals the full
picture to that member of the public. Publishing any information in relation to
the trial accordingly puts a journalist at risk of a finding for contempt, simply
because some members of the public have been able to join the dots. The court’s
interpretation of the breadth of a s.11 order is accordingly likely to have a
stifling effect on the public-interest reporting of court proceedings. Only by
rendering the account unintelligible to any person who may hold relevant
background information from another source, can the media be safe that it has
not committed a contempt. Such an approach is of particular concern when its
effect is to prevent the reporting of matters of very significant interest relating
to the trial, as the petitioner sought to do.

35. The reference to O’Riordan v Director of Public Prosecutions [2005] EWHC 1240
(Admin), at §58 of the court’s Opinion, takes the point no further. That simply
assists in understanding how one should interpret the phrase “likely to lead to
identification”. It does not inform the issue as to the scope of the group the
information must be likely to inform.

36. Accordingly, the court erred in formulating too low a threshold for conduct
amounting to a breach of the s.11 order.

Ground 4: the test applied was incompatible with Art. 10 ECHR

37. The finding of contempt of court is an interference with the petitioner’s Art. 10
right to freedom of expression. That is not understood to be in dispute. Given
the importance of the matters reported on by the petitioner and the plain public
interest in reporting those matters, it is a very significant interference with that
right. It is a more serious interference than if the petitioner had intentionally
sought to identify the complainers for vindictive purposes. Such an
interference may only be justified if the interference is in accordance with Art.
10 (2); that is, if it is prescribed by law and necessary in a democratic society.
The test applied by the court is not one which is prescribed by law because it is
vague and unforeseeable.

38. In order to meet the test to be prescribed by law, a provision must be both: (i)
accessible; and (ii) expressed with sufficient precision to enable the petitioner
to regulate his conduct. The accessibility of the terms of s.11 is not challenged.
However, the test applied by the court fails the second arm of the test for two
reasons: (i) it is imprecise; and (ii) its application is unforeseeable.

39. In relation to precision, the terms of the test set out by the court bear close
consideration:
“The question which must be asked is whether in its context the material was
such as was likely, objectively speaking, to lead to identification of the
complainers. If the material would be likely to enable a particular section
of the public to do so that would be sufficient.”

40. What is “a particular section of the public”? Is it based on the number of people
who may be able to identify the complainers? If, so how many people need to
be able to identify the complainers, in order to satisfy the test? Can one person
constitute a particular section of the public? Does it matter that the section of
the public in question already holds additional information which is not
available to the public at large? Do those members of the public who are
actively trying to piece together disparate information from across the internet
constitute a particular section of the public? Do close colleagues or family
members of the complainers constitute a particular section of the public? The
court provides the potential journalist or editor with no assistance on any of
these matters.

41. The court’s imprecision feeds into the issue of foreseeability. Without clear
guidance as to what amounts to a “particular section of the public” the
potential journalist or editor is unable to anticipate the consequences of its
reporting of matters which are legitimately in the public interest, as the
Salmond trial undoubtedly was. Almost any piece of information could be the
final piece of the jigsaw for members of the public who are already aware of
various other facts in relation to the case. Accordingly, publication of any issues
in relation to the charge, the locus, the dates or any aspect of a complainer’s
evidence could result in the author or publisher being the subject of a petition
for contempt of court. A journalist or media outlet cannot adequately predict
whether the court will consider that their individual piece of the jigsaw is the
final one or not. It also gives rise to the fear of arbitrary enforcement.

42. It would be surprising if that was the court’s intention. At §44 of its Opinion,
the court makes reference to the Independent Press Standard Organisation
Editors Code of Conduct and in particular Cl. 11:
“Victims of sexual assault
The press must not identify or publish material likely to lead to the
identification of a victim of sexual assault unless there is adequate justification
and they are legally free to do so. Journalists are entitled to make enquiries but
must take care and exercise discretion to avoid the unjustified disclosure of the
identity of a victim of sexual assault.”

43. The court is clear at §47 that it would expect responsible journalists to follow
the Code of Conduct. It is respectfully submitted that the test applied by the court
goes beyond the terms of the Code of Conduct and accordingly beyond the
realms of what responsible journalists would understand their duty to be. The
Code of Conduct prohibits the identification of complainers or publication of
material likely to lead to the identification of complainers. No reference is made
to the sphere of potential individuals who might be able to identify a
complainer but, in such an absence, it is reasonable to interpret the Code as
prohibiting identification to the public at large. That is consistent with the
terms of s. 11 of the 1981 Act. It is consistent with the fact that the media
frequently does report information relating to trials which may assist small
sections of the public, who already hold additional information, in identifying
complainers. It is the only application of the Code which allows journalists and
editors any confidence that the information they intend to publish does not
breach a s. 11 order. Given the prominent role the court attributes to the Code of
Conduct, the expectations afforded by its terms ought to be given significant
weight when considering the issue of foreseeability. The problem is
compounded, given the strict liability test imposed by the court; no defence is
open to journalists on the basis that they had not anticipated that this specific
section of the public may hold more jigsaw pieces than an ordinary member of
the public.

44. The likely consequence of the court’s approach to the test is a chilling effect on
journalistic reporting of criminal proceedings. Faced with an unforeseeable
test, where identification to any ill-defined section of the public could give rise
to proceedings for contempt, it is respectfully submitted that many journalists
will err on the safe side and opt not to publish information which is otherwise
in the public interest. That may be even more so for those working as
freelancers in the new media, without the protection afforded by media
organisations with the resources to obtain formal advice and defend any
contempt proceedings. Given the emphasis which Strasbourg has placed on
freedom of expression and of the reporting and discussion of matters in the
public interest, such a chilling effect would be intolerable.

45. Accordingly, the court’s test is not consistent with Art. 10 of the ECHR.

Ground 5: the court’s finding of contempt in respect of the 18 March 2020
article was unfair at common law and incompatible with Art. 6 ECHR

46. Fair notice is a cornerstone of both the common law and the protections
provided by Art. 6. This is clear in both civil and criminal proceedings: (i) in
civil proceedings, a party may not seek to prove matters for which there are no
averments on Record; (ii) a conviction must be consistent with the terms of the
indictment; (iii) a note of argument may not raise issues not set out in the
Grounds of Appeal. Art. 6 (3) (a) of the ECHR, similarly, provides that those
facing criminal charges must be informed promptly of the nature and cause of
the accusation against him.

47. The issue of fair notice in contempt proceedings has been repeatedly
emphasised. In re Yaxley-Lennon [2018] 1 WLR 5400, Lord Burnett CJ noted at
§29:
“Procedural fairness has always been a requirement in contempt proceedings,
including the need to particularise the alleged contempt at the outset. An alleged
contemnor must know what it is he has done which is said to amount to a
contempt of court so that he can decide whether to accept responsibility or
contest the allegation. Whilst that is a common law requirement, it chimes with
article 6.3 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and
Fundamental Freedoms which requires, amongst much else, that anyone
charged with a criminal offence must (a) . . . be informed promptly, in a
language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the
accusation against him; and (b) . . . have adequate time and the facilities for the
preparation of his defence”
At §66, he continued:
In contempt proceedings, touching as they do on the liberty of the subject, there
is a need for the contempt in question to be identified with precision and the
conduct of the alleged contemnor identified with sufficient particularity to
enable him, with the assistance of legal advice, to respond to what is a criminal
charge, in all but name.

48. The requirement for fair notice ought not to be in dispute. The court itself
recognised the importance of this principle at §62 of its Opinion. The court
rejected additional submissions which were not made by the Crown within the
body of its petition. However, the court went on to fall into the same error
against which it warned the Crown.

49. The court’s decision in relation to the petitioner’s article of 18 March 2020 is
contained at §80-84. The Crown’s position in its petition was that this article
may, read with other information, identify the complainer known as Ms D:
Petition for Contempt at §33-39. It did not aver that the article would identify, or
contribute to the identification of: Ms A, B, F/J or H. The court nonetheless went
beyond the terms of the petition and made findings that the article breached
the s. 11 order in relation to those women as well. The principle of fair notice
applies equally to the submissions made by the Crown and the findings which
are open to the court. In the words of Lord Hope in Byrne v Ross 1992 SC 498 at
506:
“It is necessary in the interests of fairness that the alleged contempt should be
clearly and distinctly averred and that the proceedings for contempt be
confined to the averments.”

50. The proceedings were not confined to the averments. The court made findings
which went beyond the terms of the Crown’s averments. It was not open to it
to do so (notwithstanding its assertion at §6 of its Statement of Reasons refusing
permission to appeal) and, in doing so, it erred in law and acted unfairly et
separatim incompatibly with Art. 6 (3) (a) of the ECHR.

APPEAL AGAINST SENTENCE

Ground 1: the sentence of eight months’ imprisonment was excessive

51. The principles in relation to sentencing those who have been found to have
breached the Contempt of Court Act 1981 are helpfully summarised in Lord
Burnett CJ’s decision in Re Yaxley-Lennon [2018] 1 WLR 5400 at §80:
“the factors material to punishment can readily be adapted and applied to cases
involving breach of reporting restrictions. They would usually include: (a) the
effect or potential consequences of the breach upon the trial or trials and upon
those participating in them; (b) the scale of the breach, with particular reference
to the numbers of people to whom the report was made, over what period and
the medium or media through which it was made; (c) the gravity of the offences
being tried in the trial or trials to which the reporting restrictions applied; (d)
the contemnor’s level of culpability and his or her reasons for acting in breach
of the reporting restrictions; (e) whether or not the contempt was aggravated by
subsequent defiance or lack of remorse; (f) the scale of sentences in similar cases,
albeit each case must turn on its own facts; (g) the antecedents, personal
circumstances and characteristics of the contemnor; (h) whether or not a special
deterrent was needed in the particular circumstances of the case.”

52. Taking the above factors, and the general principles of sentencing, into account,
the sentence imposed on the petitioner was excessive. In particular, the
petitioner would highlight the following factors which were given insufficient
weight:
I. The petitioner was otherwise of good character. He had never
previously been convicted of any offence.
II. The petitioner had a long history of public service and public interest journalism.
III. The court was presented with unchallenged affidavit evidence
that the petitioner had not intended to breach the s. 11 order or to
commit a contempt of court. If the Crown, or the court, had
reason to disbelieve the evidence in mitigation, it ought to have
heard evidence in mitigation: Anthony Stewart v HM Advocate
[2017] HCJAC 86 at §9. The practice adopted by the court was
simply to reject the evidence given by the petitioner and find, on
the contrary, that he “relished” his task.
IV. It was accepted that the petitioner had a number of serious health
issues.
V. The Criminal Justice Social Work Report had identified that the
petitioner was unlikely to reoffend in the same manner: Criminal
Justice Social Work Report p. 6.
VI. The petitioner was willing, and financially able, to pay a fine.

53. The sentence imposed was also inconsistent with comparative sentences for
breaches of reporting restrictions:
I. HM Advocate v Clive Thomson (25 February 2021) also concerned a
breach of the s. 11 order put in place in relation to the Salmond
trial. The contemnor in that case was found to have deliberately
named five of the complainers on Twitter and associated them
with the initials being used by the media. The contemnor’s
actions were described as a “blatant and deliberate breach of the
order”. The same cannot be said of the petitioner’s actions, both
in light of his affidavit and the steps taken by him to try to avoid
identification.
II. HM Solicitor General v Mayfield [2021] EWHC 1051 (QB)
concerned the breach of a reporting restriction order by posting
the names of prosecution witnesses on Facebook and posting
videos and photos taken from inside the courtroom along with
text identifying the witnesses. A twelve-week custodial sentence,
suspended for two years was imposed. Again, this is in the
context of a deliberate and specific identification of those
protected by the reporting restriction.

54. In light of all the above, a custodial sentence of eight months was excessive.

Ground 2: the sentence of eight months’ imprisonment was incompatible
with Art. 10 of the ECHR

55. This ground of appeal proceeds on the basis of two propositions: (i) the
petitioner is a journalist; and (ii) it will be disproportionate to sentence a
journalist to a custodial sentence as a result of what they publish, except in
exceptional circumstances.

56. Strasbourg has repeatedly emphasised the important role that journalists play
in civil society: Delfi AS v Estonia (2016) 62 EHRR 6 §133-134; Magyar
Tartalomszolgaltaok Egyesülete and Index.hu Zrt v Hungary, no. 22947/13, 2
February 2016 at §56. Their freedom of expression is accordingly worthy of
particular protection.

57. In seeking to limit the protections afforded to the petitioner by reason of the
form his publishing takes, the court erred. In substance, his work is journalism
and is worthy of the same protections. The petitioner is a “public watchdog”.
That role must include those, such as the petitioner, whose work criticises the
mainstream account. The petitioner accepts that his activities must be held to
the same standards as mainstream journalists (a submission which was noted
by the court at §47 of the court’s Opinion), but the corollary is that he is subject
to the same protections as the mainstream press. The fact that he publishes
through new media is irrelevant and the court erred in drawing such a
distinction.

58. If the same standards are applied to the petitioner as the mainstream press,
then a custodial sentence of eight months cannot be seen as a proportionate
disposal in relation to the finding of contempt.

59. The principle that press offences ought not ordinarily to be punished with
custodial sentences has been clear since at least the Strasbourg court’s decision
in Cumpana and Mazare v Romania (2005) 41 EHRR 14. At §115 the court notes:
“Although sentencing is in principle a matter for the national courts, the Court
considers that the imposition of a prison sentence for a press offence will be
compatible with journalists’ freedom of expression as guaranteed by Art.10 of
the Convention only in exceptional circumstances, notably where other
fundamental rights have been seriously impaired, as, for example, in the case of
hate speech or incitement to violence.“

60. Exceptional circumstances do not exist in this case. The petitioner has not
published hate speech, nor has he incited violence. There are no features of this
case which are analogous to these extreme examples. The importance of
complainer anonymity is, of course, important but it cannot be said that the
publication of information which may, inadvertently, lead to the identification
of the complainers by a discrete and undefined section of the public, is
sufficiently serious as to justify the imposition of an eight-month custodial
sentence on a journalist who was exercising his role as a public watchdog. The
Strasbourg court has made no suggestion that circumstances analogous to
those in this case amount to the exceptional circumstances required by
Cumpana and Mazare. In such circumstances, it is not for the domestic courts to
dilute the protection afforded by Strasbourg: R (AB) v Secretary of State for Justice
[2021] UKSC 28 at §54.

61. It has already been submitted that the imprecision of the test set out by the
court is likely to have a chilling effect of press reporting on criminal
proceedings. That is a fortiori the case in circumstances where an inadvertent
breach of a s. 11 order may have the effect of subjecting a journalist or publisher
to a lengthy custodial sentence. Such a chilling effect is to be discouraged and
the approach taken by the court in the petitioner’s case is accordingly
inconsistent with Strasbourg’s jurisprudence in relation to Art. 10.
62. Again, considerations of comparative justice are instructive. The petitioner has
been subject to a longer custodial sentence than was imposed in Clive Thomson
which concerned a non-journalist deliberately identifying the complainers by
name. There is no principled basis to argue that the activities of the petitioner
were more prejudicial to the rights of the complainers than in that case and
certainly no basis to support a finding that his activities constituted exceptional
circumstances in the sense referred to in Cumpana and Mazare. The imposition
of a fine could have marked the court’s disapproval of the petitioner’s conduct
and, accordingly, the more restrictive disposal of a custodial sentence was
disproportionate and not in accordance with Art. 10 ECHR.

CONCLUSIONS
63. There is no evidence that the petitioner intended to identify any complainer.
Indeed, there is no evidence that any member of the public has identified a
complainer from the petitioner’s articles. There was unchallenged evidence
before the court that the petitioner had sought at all times to remain on the right
side of the s. 11 order. In such circumstances, both the finding of contempt and
the sentence imposed cannot be supported.

64. The court erred in law in finding the petitioner in contempt of court. There is
no basis for: (i) applying a test of strict liability; (ii) criticising the petitioner’s
unchallenged evidence; (iii) applying a test of identification of “identification
to a particular section of the public”; nor (iv) making findings that went beyond
the notice given in the Crown’s petition. Accordingly, declarator ought to be
granted that the finding was wrong, unjust and contrary to law.
65. The court also erred in imposing an eight-month custodial sentence. This was:
(i) excessive at common law; and (ii) a disproportionate interference with his
Art. 10 rights. Accordingly, declarator ought to be granted that the sentence
was excessive and contrary to law.

Roddy Dunlop QC, Dean of Faculty
David Blair, Advocate
2 February 2022

I am afraid that I am going to have to renew my appeal for funds to help with the legal costs. Fighting these kinds of actions is simply crippling. Your dedication to freedom and support have so far saved me from personal bankruptcy, but we now need to raise a further £80,000 immediately – of which we readers have very kindly donated over half since I made the renewed appeal two days ago.




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Appeal Against Imprisonment for Journalism, Wednesday 23 February

I will never get back the four months of my life I spent locked at least 22.5 hours a day in a 12 foot by 8 foot cell. I have nothing personally to gain from carrying on the legal fight – I was a civil prisoner and do not have a criminal record.

But the legal distinction made by Lady Dorrian’s judgement between “new media” and “mainstream media”, in terms of their liability to prosecution and to imprisonment, has to be fought, because coming from a three judge bench of the High Court in Edinburgh it is a citable precedent throughout many English speaking jurisdictions (and is directly contrary to ECHR rulings).

On Wednesday we appeal to the nobile officium, the Scottish appeal court of five High Court judges, where Lord President Carloway will hear the appeal. In pursuit of my commitment to Open Justice and to giving readers original sources so they can make up their own mind, I had intended to publish our Submissions to the Court here, but the legal team informs me I cannot in law do this until the court starts its hearing. So watch this website on Wednesday.

However what I can tell you is that a common theme emerges from the various points of appeal – the arbitrariness of Lady Dorrian’s proceedings. Consider these points, all part of my appeal:

1) Neither the Crown nor the Court ever suggested in the proceedings or papers, a distinction between “mainstream media” or “new media”. It was never put to us, so we could never argue against it. Lady Dorrian simply formed it in her head and then set it in stone. Had the distinction been put to us at the trial, we would have wished to bring forward expert witnesses to refute Lady Dorrian’s dicta that “mainstream media” is more ethical than “new media”. To introduce the distinction into law is deeply worrying. To do so without hearing arguments is extraordinary.

2) The majority of the jigsaw clues to identification found in Lady Dorrian’s judgement, were never in the accusation against me, so we had no opportunity to refute them in court. The Crown identified in its petition a number of phrases they claimed could be identifying, and we argued in submissions and in my affidavits that this was not so. But Lady Dorrian in her judgement came up with a number of new phrases she stated were identifying, but which proposition had never been put to me in proceedings, and I had no idea were claimed to be identifying, until the judgement.

3) Lady Dorrian entirely discounted my affidavits as untruthful without ever putting that to me to give me a chance to respond. I submitted two detailed affidavits on oath setting out that it had never been my intention to disclose identities. I stated the steps I had taken to ensure I did not do so, and how my precaution was greater than that of the mainstream media. My counsel informed the court that I was prepared to answer any questions on my affidavits, either from the Crown or from the Court. Both Crown and Court declined to question me. The normal presumption is that if evidence is not challenged in court, it is accepted. To dismiss my affidavits with no cross-examination is extraordinary.

4) Lady Dorrian had based her substantial prison sentence on her judgement that I had “relished” giving clues to identity. This had not been alleged by the Crown, the court had heard no evidence from anybody to this effect, and it was directly contrary to my own unchallenged evidence on oath.

5) It is impossible for the journalist to know exactly where the line lies for “jigsaw identification”. My article of 11 March, for example, consisted entirely of material gleaned from mainstream media as I was not in court nor yet had my own sources in court on that day, yet I was found in contempt for publishing nothing but what the mainstream media had already published.

This is all remarkably arbitrary, in the most literal sense.

These are points of process. The more fundamental point is that I, as a journalist, had access to both written and eye witness evidence that led me to believe that the current First Minister of Scotland was orchestrating a plot to frame the former First Minister of Scotland on entirely false charges: a belief of which I am now quite certain. This was a matter of the highest possible public interest leading to an overwhelming Article 10 ECHR right to publish. I realised that right was in conflict with the Article 8 right of the accusers to the privacy ordered by the Court, and I did my best to balance the two (even when I was publishing articles on the plot for eight months before there was a court order in place protecting identities).

However, Lady Dorrian gave no weight whatsoever to the Article 10 Freedom of Speech side of this equation. This was worsened by the fact that the Crown held the documents which I had seen which convinced me of the plot against Salmond, many of which are still not public, and the Court refused my application for their disclosure, so I could assert the reasonable grounds for my belief in the plot against Salmond.

The current situation is that Wednesday’s appeal will be held with no public gallery and no streaming or dial-in access. I have asked my legal team to object to this, and will keep you posted. I am frankly furious that the public will be kept away from the hearing.

I am afraid that I am going to have to renew my appeal for funds to help with the legal costs. Fighting these kinds of actions is simply crippling. Your dedication to freedom and your support have so far saved me from personal bankruptcy, but we now need to raise a further £80,000 immediately.




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Ukraine: Where to Find the Truth in Enormous Detail

In the massive propaganda blitz over Ukraine, there is one place where you can find, in enormous detail, the truth about what is happening in the civil war conflict zone on a daily basis. That is in the daily reports of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Monitoring Mission.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe is a brilliant organisation set up to monitor implementation of agreements on human rights and arms control during the Cold War period. It includes Russia, the UK and the USA among its 57 members as well as all EU states. It has been operating in conflict zones for over half a century.


Over 40 member states have monitors in the Ukraine monitoring mission. The head of the mission is Turkish, and almost all members have a military or diplomatic background. There are 700 monitors, and they have been in Ukraine since 2014. Their job is to patrol both sides of the civil war conflict zone and to record infringements of the ceasefire and de-escalation agreements, bringing these to the attention of the relevant authorities.

Their work is very comprehensive indeed, and their detailed daily reports are public. These provide the most fantastic journalistic resource for what is actually happening on the ground – which is why Western mainstream media never use this resource, because the truth is the opposite of the picture they wish to paint.

For example, three OSCE monitors attended the site of the famous “kindergarten missile” attack, to verify what kind of missile was used, where it came from, and then tally this against the OSCE’s detailed record of weapons on both sides in the area and their daily movements. This is, literally, the basic everyday job of the mission. The team of OSCE expert observers – two of whom were from European Union countries – were denied access by the Ukrainian government to the kindergarten when they arrived to determine what kind of missile it was and where it came from. This is in direct violation of the ceasefire accord.

For those of us who saw the kindergarten attack stunt as propaganda to begin with, this is powerful corroboration.

This is from the OSCE’s daily report of 18 February:

Damage to a working kindergarten in Stanytsia Luhanska, Luhansk region
On 17 February, the Mission followed up on reports of damage to a working kindergarten in
the north-western part of Stanytsia Luhanska (government-controlled, 16km north-east of
Luhansk), located about 4.5km north-west of the north-western edge of the disengagement area
near Stanytsia Luhanska.
At 22 Depovska Street, about 20m south-west of a two-storey kindergarten building, the SMM
observed a crater in the kindergarten playground, as well as marks assessed as caused by
shrapnel on the inner side of a concrete wall surrounding the building. Also, it observed a hole
(about 1m in diameter), and one shattered window on the north-eastern facade of the same
building, and two shattered windows on the building’s north-west facing wall (on its ground
and first floor).
The SMM assessed the damage as recent but was unable to determine the weapon used or the
direction of fire.
Staff from the Youth Affairs Department of the Stanytsia Luhanska Civil-Military
Administration told the Mission that 20 children had been in the kindergarten at the time of the
incident, but reported no injuries.
The SMM was only able to conduct its assessment from a distance of about 50m from the
north-eastern facade and of about 30m from the south-western facade of the damaged building,
as a law enforcement officer did not allow the Mission to access the site saying that an
investigation was ongoing.

That same report records numerous violations of the ceasefire agreement by the Ukrainian government in moving heavy weaponry in to menace separatist held areas and in keeping weaponry outside agreed storage facilities. It equally reports precisely the same kind of violations by separatist rebels. None of which balance has been recorded by the same western media which loves to give detailed accounts of troop movements within Russia. Here is just one tiny example of hundreds of the OSCE information, from the same report of 18 February as the kindergarten visit:

The SMM continued to monitor the withdrawal of weapons in implementation of the
Memorandum and the Package of Measures and its Addendum.
In violation of withdrawal lines, the Mission observed a surface-to-air-missile system in a
government-controlled area of Donetsk region. It also spotted 21 howitzers, five anti-tank guns
(four of which probable) and one probable multiple launch-rocket system, in two training areas
in non-government-controlled areas of Luhansk region.
Beyond withdrawal lines but outside designated storage sites, the SMM saw ten towed
howitzers and two surface-to-air-missile systems in government-controlled areas of Donetsk
region, in two compounds (of which one near a residential area). It also spotted two surfaceto-air missile systems, 12 mortars and 41 tanks, in two training areas in non-governmentcontrolled areas of Luhansk region. (For further information, see the tables below.)
Indications of military and military-type presence in the security zone
In government-controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the Mission saw seven
armoured combat vehicles. In residential areas in non-government controlled areas of Donetsk
and Luhansk regions, it also saw one anti-aircraft gun and two armoured combat vehicles
(including one probable). (For further information, see the table below.)
During the day, the SMM saw a minibus, three minivans, two cars and ten men (age unknown)
wearing military-style clothing and carrying assault rifles in a residential area of Oleksandrivka
(non-government-controlled, 20km south-west of Donetsk).
The Mission also saw a convoy consisting of four trucks (three Ural and one Kamaz type) and
three cars carrying at least seven men in a residential area of Brianka (non-governmentcontrolled, 46km south-west of Luhansk) heading north-west. Later in the day, the SMM saw
the same convoy in Alchevsk (non-government-controlled, 40km west of Luhansk).

Three countries have now withdrawn their staff from the OSCE Monitoring Mission in preparation for a coming war – the UK, the USA and Canada. In my view, that speaks volumes about who is actually planning on starting a war here. Extraordinarily, having withdrawn their staff, the western powers are now briefing the media that the OSCE (which has for decades been a key tool of western security architecture) is a biased organisation.

Yet again the parallel to the Iraq War is striking to those of us who recall the rubbishing by the US/UK of the reports of the UN weapons inspection team, in favour of propaganda and outright lies in order to start a war.

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