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Foreign Office seeks to ban book exposing complicity in torture

.. | 12.02.2006 20:07 | Analysis | Indymedia | Repression | World

The UK Foreign Office is threatening legal action against Craig Murray over his book "Murder in Samarkand", which exposes British complicity in torture.

Craig Murray, the former British Ambassador who was forced out of his post in Uzbekistan after exposing British complicity in torture, is heading for a legal showdown with Jack Straw's Foreign Office over the publication of his book "Murder in Samarkand".

In an email to the Foreign Office Director General of Corporate Affairs, Richard Stagg, published on his website last week, Murray threw down the gauntlet:

"There is now an extensive correspondence over many months on my efforts to clear my book with the FCO for publication. You have had many months to deliberate.

In the ensuing discussions, I have made, as requested, the following very extensive amendments.

*I have removed two accusations that Colin Powell was lying
*I have edited out those parts of my conversation with the US Ambassador which had the quality of confidence, were indiscreet, or differed from public US policy on Uzbekistan
*I have removed the detail of two SIS intelligence reports
*I have removed the reference to GCHQ telephone intercepts
*I have removed completely references to the role of Research Analysts in intelligence anaysis
*I have made plain that Duncan does not support my recollection that he said Research Analysts were in tears over pressure brought over claims of Iraqi WMD
*I have changed the attributions of several comments made by Uzbek LE staff
*I have given false names to several Uzbek LE staff
*I have removed several references to my contention that the Embassy did not function well before my arrival
*I have removed the reference to an early hiccough in Andrew Patrick's career
*I have changed statements made by Matthew Kydd and Linda Duffield (frankly, I believe my original account was more accurate)
*I have reduced the gruesome detail of the aircraft crash body identification, and particularly taken out physical detail personal to Richard Conroy
*I have removed or toned down a number of personal observations on FCO staff
*I have taken out the reference to Frank Berman being appointed over David Anderson

...I am deeply disappointed that, throughout this process, I have felt no urge on the part of the FCO to actually conclude this matter. Past correspondence sets out the timescale and the FCO's continued invention of new points to prevent the process concluding.

I therefore give you notice that, should I not receive a definitive response from you by Friday 10 February, I shall be going ahead with publication."

In response, Stagg wrote to Murray claiming to have further "concerns" about the book, alleging that it was "in places factually incorrect", suggesting that Murray's comments " risk bringing the Service into disrepute", and stating that:

"if the book is published, we will actively consider a claim for breach of confidence or of Crown copyright"

Stagg also warned that "there are a number of passages in your book which could well ground actions for defamation".

"It is not falsehood which scares you, but truth.", Murray writes in response.

"It is plain from your letter that you object to the whole concept of my publishing this account. Nowhere in the months of negotiation between us to date did you propose any such fundamental objections as now surface in your letter. Rather you asked for a series of specific amendments, the vast majority of which I made. I am sadly reinforced in my view that this lengthy process was an effort on your part to stall publication, rather than a discussion in good faith."

Murray notes that Richard Stagg has himself been implicated in the production of the fraudulent "dodgy dossier" in 2003, which alleged that Iraq was in possession of WMD.

"I am afraid that one consequence is, that when you try to lecture me on truth, I am sorely tempted to laugh at you. I have lost my livelihood through all this. You have lost something infinitely more precious.", Murray says.

"And if you really want to ask a jury of twelve honest citizens to send me to prison for campaigning against torture, good luck to you."

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