Following the criminal incarceration of former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, I asked another former British diplomat and UK Ambassador to Syria from 2003-06, Peter Ford, to comment on the shutting down of voices raised against injustice in the UK and Scotland. Ford has also been a thorn in the side of the imperialist class regarding the ten year UK FCDO-sponsored regime change war in Syria.
If the lurch towards authoritarianism in the context of Covid-related restrictions was not enough to convince us that our freedoms were slipping away, here comes another blow to faith in British democracy and justice: the conviction and imprisonment of Craig Murray. The case has ramifications wider than the breaking of this particular butterfly upon a wheel.
Murray’s crime? He allegedly published on his blog a clue to the identity of the accusers of Alex Salmond, the former Scottish First Minister accused (but acquitted) of sexual harassment. Much could be said about the distortions of justice involved in the case, not least the court’s extraordinary endorsement of the view that the Crown must be obeyed when it orders a bit of censorship and that a different law applies for mainstream media from that which applies to mere bloggers. But Murray’s real crime was to be a thorn in the side of the British Establishment. Would he, a first time offender involved in a non-violent offence, really have been given a custodial sentence but for the aggravating factor that he was, well, aggravating to the Scottish and British Establishment?
Murray made the cardinal error of supporting Alex Salmond, a marked man in the eyes of the one party Scottish state he helped create. Shades of Lenin and Trotsky. But above all Murray probably more than anyone else has been responsible for keeping the Julian Assange case in the public eye. His blog has been the go to site for anyone following it. And in the eyes of the British Establishment Assange must be crucified, to teach a lesson to all whistleblowers who reveal the misdeeds of the security state. That Assange has already purged his punishment for the one British law he broke, skipping bail, and that he has not had due process in any US court, matters not a whit to the Establishment. And so he is kept rotting in Belmarsh prison, waiting on the good pleasure of his US and British tormentors to take forward the legal processes in which they have ensnared him. He is a political prisoner.
Now Craig Murray, in ailing health, has become Britain’s second most famous political prisoner. And as with Assange, it is sickening to see, or rather not to see, the media-ocracy spearheaded by the BBC, Guardian, Times etc leaping (sarcasm intended) to Murray’s defence, or at least questioning the severity of his sentence, the chilling implications for freedom of speech of the terms of his judgment, and the motivations of the political classes behind this travesty. And as for what is comically called the ‘opposition’ parties, go whistle. But then we have all become accustomed to being muzzled over the last year and a half, have we not?