Craig Murray

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Craig Murray
Craig Murray.jpg
Craig Murray delivers an address on 23 September 2006 aboard a Peace Train on the subject of Afghanistan.
Independent candidate for
the Norwich North by-election
Election date
23 July 2009
Opponent(s) Chloe Smith
Chris Ostrowski
and 9 others
Incumbent Ian Gibson (resigned)
Personal details
Born (1958-10-17) 17 October 1958 (age 55)
West Runton, Norfolk, England, UK
Nationality British
Political party Independent
Education MA (Hons), University of Dundee
Occupation Political activist
Former ambassador
Website craigmurray.org.uk

Craig John Murray (born 17 October 1958[1][2]) is a British blogger, political activist[clarification needed], former ambassador to Uzbekistan and former Rector of the University of Dundee.

While at the embassy in Tashkent, he accused the Karimov administration of human rights abuses, which he argued was a step against the wishes of the British government and the reason for his removal. Murray complained to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in November 2002, January or early February 2003, and in June 2004 that intelligence linking the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan to al-Qaeda was unreliable, immoral and illegal, as it was thought to have been obtained through torture.[3] He described this as "selling our souls for dross".[4] He was subsequently removed from his ambassadorial post on 14 October 2004.

Background[edit]

Murray was born in West Runton, Norfolk, and grew up in neighbouring Sheringham. He was educated at Sheringham Primary and then at Paston School, an all-boys' state grammar school where he had an undistinguished record (the school has since merged with another, and is now a sixth-form college known as Paston College), in North Walsham in Norfolk,[5] followed by the University of Dundee, where he studied Modern History, and to which, by his own account, he barely gained admission. Whilst at university he attended few lectures, instead reading voraciously to teach himself, and graduated in 1982 with an MA (Hons) 1st Class. During this period, he was a member of the Liberal Party.[citation needed]

Having already been on the Students' Representative Council, Murray became President of Dundee University Students' Association, elected to this sabbatical office twice (1982–1983 and 1983–1984), an occurrence so unusual that the university court (the highest body) changed the rules to stop him running a third time. He was reserve member of the team that won University Challenge in 1983.[6] He spent seven years in total at the university, compared to a normal four for a Scottish first degree.[7]

He joined HM Diplomatic Service through the 1984 Civil Service Open Competition. He had a number of overseas postings with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to Africa and to Europe. In London, he was appointed to the FCO's Southern European Department, as Cyprus desk officer, and later became head of the Maritime Section. In August 1991 he worked in the Embargo Surveillance Centre as the head of the FCO section. This job entailed monitoring the Iraqi government's attempts at smuggling weapons and circumventing sanctions. His group gave daily reports to Margaret Thatcher and John Major. In Murder in Samarkand, he describes how this experience led him to disbelieve the claims of the UK & US governments in 2002 about Iraqi WMDs.[8][9]

Murray is also a strong supporter of Scottish Independence.

Personal life[edit]

Murray separated from his first wife, Fiona, with whom he has two children,[10] after starting a relationship with Nadira Alieva, an Uzbek woman whom he met in a lapdancing club in Tashkent.[11] She followed him when he left Uzbekistan.[12] They were married on 6 May 2009[13] and had a son, Cameron, later that year.[14]

Uzbekistan[edit]

In 2002 Murray was appointed British ambassador to Uzbekistan at the age of 43 but dismissed in October 2004.[1] In July 2004 he told The Guardian that "there is no point in having cocktail-party relationships with a fascist regime", and that "you don't have to be a pompous old fart to be an ambassador".[10]

In October 2002 Murray made a speech at a human rights conference hosted by Freedom House in Tashkent in which he asserted that "Uzbekistan is not a functioning democracy" and that the boiling to death of two members of Hizb ut-Tahrir "is not an isolated incident".[15] Later, Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan confronted Uzbek President Islam Karimov with Murray's claims.[10]

Murray was summoned to the FCO in London and on 8 March 2003 was reprimanded for writing to his employers, in response to a speech by President of the United States George W. Bush, "when it comes to the Karimov regime, systematic torture and rape appear to be treated as peccadilloes, not to affect the relationship and to be downplayed in the international fora... I hope that once the present crisis is over we will make plain to the US at senior level our serious concern over their policy in Uzbekistan." [16]

Disciplinary charges[edit]

In July 2003 some of the embassy staff were sacked while Murray was away on holiday. They were reinstated after he expressed his outrage to the FCO. Later during the same holiday he was recalled to London for disciplinary reasons. On 21 August 2003 he was confronted with 18 charges. These included "hiring dolly birds [pretty young women] for above the usual rate" for the visa department, though he claims that the department had an all-male staff, and granting UK visas in exchange for sex. The FCO gave him a week to resign and told him that discussing the charges would be a violation of the Official Secrets Act 1989.[10]

He collapsed during a medical check in Tashkent on 2 September 2003 and was airlifted to St Thomas Hospital in London. After an FCO internal inquiry conducted by Tony Crombie, Head of the FCO's Overseas Territories Department, all but two of the charges (being drunk at work and misusing the embassy's Range Rover) were dropped. The charges were leaked to the press in October 2003.[17]

Immediately upon his return to work in November 2003, he suffered a near-fatal pulmonary embolism and was again flown back to London for medical treatment. The FCO exonerated him of all 18 charges in January 2004 after a four-month investigation but reprimanded him for speaking about them.[citation needed]

Removal from post[edit]

Murray was removed from his post in October 2004, shortly after a leaked report in the Financial Times quoted him as claiming that MI6 used intelligence provided by Uzbek authorities through torture.[18]

The FCO denied any direct connection and stated that Murray had been removed for "operational" reasons. It claimed that he had lost the confidence of senior officials and colleagues. The following day, in an interview on the Today Programme, the BBC's flagship political radio show, Murray countered that he was a "victim of conscience", and in this and other interviews was critical of the FCO.[19] A few days later he was charged with "gross misconduct" by the FCO for making these media appearances.[20] Murray agreed to resign from the FCO in February 2005.[citation needed]

In his 2007 book Murder in Samarkand, Murray speculates that his anti-torture memos caused problems for the governments of both the US and UK. First, the CIA's extraordinary rendition program was secretly using Uzbekistan as a country to which to fly people to be tortured. Second, the transcripts of the torture sessions were then shared with Britain's MI6 because of the UK-US intelligence sharing agreements of WWII. By objecting to the UK's acceptance of CIA torture-obtained information, he was interfering with the secret rendition program as well as threatening the MI6's relationship with the CIA.[21]

Subsequent career[edit]

Murray has continued his opposition to the War on Terror since leaving HM Diplomatic Service. He sums up his current occupation: "Being a dissident is quite fun."[7] He has stood unsuccessfully on two occasions for election to Parliament. In November 2005, he took part in the Axis for Peace Conference in Brussels.[22]

In December 2005, he published a number of confidential memos on his website, which outlined his condemnation of intelligence procured under torture, and the UK government's ambivalence to this. The British government subsequently claimed copyright over the documents and demanded they be removed.[23]

Murray's book Murder in Samarkand - A British Ambassador's Controversial Defiance of Tyranny in the War on Terror[24] outlining his controversial period as an ambassador was finally published in 2006, but only after several battles. Before its publication, many potential readers were contacted through Internet posts and e-mail listings to raise interest and by creating a body of public opinion, to guard against the publisher being 'bullied' out of printing the book by government pressure. These communications also mentioned how supporting government documents which were originally planned for inclusion had been forcibly removed because of 'copyright' worries. This, despite Murray's claims that many had received a formal release and thus should have been within the public domain. Their forced removal, Murray has stated is the government "trying to claw back the very limited gains in Freedom of Information in the UK",[25] especially attempts to close websites on which the supporting documents were posted instead. Though many attempts to do this have proved successful, media interest has also meant that the documents frequently re-surface on mirror sites.[26] A film version is in development.[when?] Paramount hired Sir David Hare to write the script, with Michael Winterbottom attached to direct and Steve Coogan to star as Murray. However following Paramount's decision to pass on the project, Hare rewrote his script to turn it into a radio play. The radio play was broadcast on 20 February 2010 on BBC Radio 4 and starred David Tennant as Murray. A new film script is currently being developed by screenwriter Don McPherson.[27]

A character based on him appears in the 2006 UK-US television co-production The State Within, in which the former British ambassador to the fictional country of Tyrgyzstan, a hard-drinking womaniser, is embroiled in a plot to stop human rights abuses amid escalating threats of war. On 16 February 2007 he was elected to the position of Rector of the University of Dundee, his alma mater. The other nominee was former British Lion and Scotland rugby captain Andy Nicol.[28] Murray opposes cuts to University departments and services which were proposed in a document drafted by a working group chaired by the outgoing Dean of the School of Engineering, Professor Michael Davies. The election saw an increase in turnout of 50% from the previous election, with Murray winning by 632 votes to 582. Coincidentally, Murray was in the same class at his secondary school as actor Stephen Fry, who also was Rector of the University of Dundee.[when?][5]

In July 2007, he was elected an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Lancaster School of Law. His life features in a show by Alieva, The British Ambassador's Bellydancer, initially presented at the Arcola Theatre in Hackney, later moving to London's West End.[29][30] She invited him to perform in it, but he declined, citing lack of acting ability.[30]

Murray is Executive Chairman of Atholl Energy Ltd[31] and Chairman of Westminster Development Ltd, a gold mining company, both operating in Accra, Ghana.[32]

Political career[edit]

Murray joined the Liberal Party in 1973, refounding, with two others, the defunct North Norfolk constituency Liberal party. Murray wrote personally to Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe to request a candidate. Thorpe's private secretary, Richard Moore, read the letter and volunteered himself to be the candidate. On arrival in Sheringham, he was surprised to find his sponsor was 15 years old. Moore fought North Norfolk in both 1974 elections, the first Liberal to fight North Norfolk for several elections. (The party finally won the seat in 2001.)[citation needed]

Murray became President of the East Anglian Federation of Young Liberals. Aged just 16 he was elected to the National Council of the Liberal Party to represent the Eastern Region of England. At Dundee University, Murray remained active in Liberal then Liberal Democrat politics and remains friends with fellow Scottish student Lib Dems Charles Kennedy and Alistair Carmichael. Murray was elected President of his University Students Union as an avowed Lib Dem and went straight from University to join HM Diplomatic Service, where Murray remained a silent Lib Dem member until 2005, when he decided to challenge Jack Straw but found the Lib Dem candidacy already taken.[citation needed]

Murray stood for election to the House of Commons on two occasions, in Blackburn, Lancashire, and Norwich North, Norfolk. In both, he was an independent candidate. In the May 2005 general election, he stood against his former boss, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who has long been the MP for Blackburn. He polled 2,082 votes (5.0%), coming in fifth place out of seven candidates.[1]

Following the United Kingdom Parliamentary expenses scandal, Murray stood for election in the July 2009 Norwich North by-election under the slogan "Put an honest man into Parliament".[33] He polled 953 votes (2.77%) putting him in sixth place out of twelve candidates. He rejoined the Liberal Democrats, as reported on 22 March 2010 on his own website.[34] He voted for the coalition with the Conservatives at the Lib Dem special conference in Birmingham to approve the deal. He left the party again in September 2011 due to its policy of privatisation within the UK health service and education system, and joined the Scottish National Party.[35]

In 2011-12, Murray began exposing the Fox-Werritty-Gould affair – a series of secret meetings (the first on 8 September 2009 organised by Denis MacShane), between Britain's then defence minister Liam Fox, Fox’s friend Adam Werritty, the UK Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould, and in some cases MacShane and Mossad agents, with the intention of enlisting British support for an Israeli attack on Iran.[36][37]

In August 2012, Murray spoke outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London in support of Julian Assange and whistleblowers around the world. He was criticised by Swedish diplomats and others for naming one of Assange's alleged rape victims.[11]

Awards[edit]

In recognition of his campaigning work on torture and human rights he was awarded the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence in January 2006.[38]

In November 2006, he was awarded the Premio Alta Qualità della Città di Bologna.[39]

Legal pressure[edit]

During an interview with Alex Jones on 21 August 2006 regarding torture and the 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot, Murray claimed that false intelligence on al-Qaeda plots was obtained through torture done by CIA proxies, and that the intelligence gained is used as a propaganda tool.[citation needed] The threat of legal action against Murray by the Treasury Solicitor for the unauthorised publication of official documents on his website resulted in a large number of people mirroring the documents on their own websites and releasing them via peer to peer networks.[40][41] The Treasury Solicitor's letter stated that if the documents were not removed by 10 July 2006, which they were not, then a claim would be issued in the High Court for an injunction requiring the documents to be removed.[42]

In September 2007, Murray commented upon the character of Alisher Usmanov, Russia's 18th richest man,[43] following Usmanov's investment in Arsenal Football Club.[44] However, the post[45] had to be removed from his web site following an intervention from Usmanov's lawyers, Schillings, who threatened his webhost. Despite Murray's repeated assertions that he was happy to defend his statements in court, Schillings declined to sue Murray but concentrated on stamping out the story by threatening hosting companies who had no interest in defending the case. Under further pressure from Usmanov's lawyers, the hosting company Fasthosts decided to permanently close the server for the web site on 20 September 2007, an action which had the effect of deleting several other related and non-related political blogs.[46]

A campaign by bloggers against Usmanov's legal pressure ensued, and Murray's website has since returned.[citation needed]

Murray in popular culture[edit]

Robin Soans used an interview with Murray and Alieva as a character for his Verbatim style play Talking to Terrorists. The interview is used as the dialogue for the character "Ex-Ambassador". The play had a very successful run at the Royal Court Theatre and has since been widely produced worldwide. Soans used Murray again as a verbatim character in his later play Life After Scandal.[citation needed]

On 20 February 2010 BBC Radio Four broadcast a radio play Murder in Samarkand, written by Sir David Hare, based on Murray's book of the same name. Actor David Tennant portrayed Craig Murray and the director was Clive Brill.[47] In a review of the radio play in The Independent, Chris Maume[who?] said that the 'no-nonsense script' told how "evidence" gleaned from torture and human-rights abuses helped to build a case for invading Iraq. Maume went on to state that the case was 'fraudulent'. As well, it told of Murray's threefold passions, for whiskey, and women, and his notions of justice.[48]

Works[edit]

  • Murray, Craig (2006). Murder in Samarkand. Mainstream Publishing. ISBN 1-84596-194-3. 
  • Murray, Craig (2007). Murder in Samarkand (paperback ed.). Mainstream Publishing. ISBN 1-84596-221-4. 
  • Murray, Craig (2007). Dirty Diplomacy (US title of Murder in Samarkand ed.). Scribner Book Company. ISBN 1-4165-4801-7. 
  • Murray, Craig (2009). The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known. Atholl Publishing Ltd. ISBN 978-0956129901. 

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Biography". Craig Murray. Retrieved 2008-07-18. 
  2. ^ Murder in Samarkand page 293
  3. ^ "Extraordinary Rendition". Craig Murray. 11 July 2005. Retrieved 2008-07-18. 
  4. ^ "The Torture Biz: Selling Our Soul for Disinfo Rubbish". European Tribune. 13 December 2005. Retrieved 2008-07-18. 
  5. ^ a b "Peculiar Coincidence". Craig Murray. 2 May 2007. Retrieved 18 July 2008. 
  6. ^ "Old Boys Rise to the Challenge". University of Dundee. 27 May 2002. Retrieved 18 July 2008. 
  7. ^ a b Sale, Jonathan (20 November 2006). "Passed/Failed: An Education in the Life of Craig Murray, Former Ambassador". Career Planning (London: The Independent). Retrieved 18 July 2008. 
  8. ^ Hainey, Raymond (31 December 2005). "Memos 'Prove Evidence used from Uzbek Secret Police'". Scotsman. Retrieved 18 July 2008. 
  9. ^ Dirty Diplomacy, p 170
  10. ^ a b c d Paton Walsh, Nick (15 July 2004). "The Envoy who said too much". G2 (London: The Guardian). Retrieved 18 July 2008. 
  11. ^ a b "Swedish prosecutors censure sex case naming diplomat", says Julian Assange
  12. ^ Davies, Barbara (22 December 2007). "The Squalid Truth about Our Man in Uzbekistan and his Belly Dancer Lover". The Daily Mail. Retrieved 18 July 2008. 
  13. ^ "On Being Happy". Craig Murray's personal blog. 5 May 2009. 
  14. ^ "CRAIG MURRAY: I might be the worst by-election candidate in history - but after that result we are all losers"
  15. ^ Stern, David (14 January 2003). "British Envoy's Speech Reverberates in Uzbekistan". Civil Society. EurasiaNet. Retrieved 2008-07-18. 
  16. ^ "The UK was Complicit in Torture in Uzbekistan". Scoop. 30 December 2005. Retrieved 18 July 2008. 
  17. ^ Leigh, David; Paton Walsh, Nick; MacAskill, Ewen (18 October 2003). "Ambassador Accused after Criticising US". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 18 July 2008. 
  18. ^ "'Torture Intelligence' Criticised". BBC News. 11 October 2004. Retrieved 18 July 2008. 
  19. ^ Berg, Sanchia (15 October 2004). "Ambassador Speaks Out". Today Programme (BBC Radio 4). Retrieved 18 July 2008. 
  20. ^ MacAskill, Ewen (24 October 2004). "Ex-Envoy to Face Discipline Charges, says FO". World News (London: The Guardian). Retrieved 18 July 2008. 
  21. ^ Dirty Diplomacy, p. 332
  22. ^ "Panelist - Craig Murray". Axis for Peace. Retrieved 18 July 2008. 
  23. ^ "Damning Documentary Evidence Unveiled. Dissident Bloggers in Coordinated Exposé of UK Government Lies over Torture.". Craig Murray. 29 December 2005. Retrieved 18 July 2008. 
  24. ^ "Murder in Samarkand - Documents". Craig Murray. Retrieved 18 July 2008. 
  25. ^ Murder in Samarkand, preface, page 13 2007 paperback edition
  26. ^ Craig Murray documents: "The media catches on" (UPDATED), Blairwatch.co.uk]
  27. ^ "CRAIG MURRAY: My story's about torture, car chases, sex and an evil tyrant... No wonder they called in Doctor Who", Daily Mail, 17 February 2010
  28. ^ "No Second Term for Rector Kelly". BBC News. 4 January 2007. Retrieved 18 July 2008. 
  29. ^ Lamb, Christina (9 December 2007), "Ambassador's belly dancer stages her life", The Times (London), retrieved 5 November 2009 
  30. ^ a b Logan, Brian (7 January 2008), "Sex, scandal and sequins", The Guardian (London), retrieved 5 November 2009 
  31. ^ "Siemens, Atholl Build 75 MW Power". Modern Ghana. 20 Dec 2007. Retrieved 7 July 2009. 
  32. ^ "About Craig Murray". Craig Murray. Retrieved 7 July 2009. 
  33. ^ Craig Murray 2009 by-election for Norwich North
  34. ^ "On Being A Liberal Democrat". Craig Murray's blog. 22 March 2010. 
  35. ^ "The Lonely Liberal". Craig Murray's blog. 18 September 2011. 
  36. ^ Brian Brady (27 November 2011). "Liam Fox, Adam Werritty, and the curious case of Our Man in Tel Aviv". The Independent. Retrieved 2 September 2013. 
  37. ^ Ensor, Josie. "Adam Werritty 'plotted with Israel' to topple Iran's President Ahmadinejad". Telegraph. Retrieved 2 September 2013. 
  38. ^ "Craig Murray on Receiving the Samuel Adams Award". World Can't Wait. 15 February 2006. Retrieved 18 July 2008. 
  39. ^ "Premio Alta Qualità delle Città of Bologna". Premio Alta Qualità. Retrieved 18 July 2008. [dead link]
  40. ^ "Craig Murray vs the Foreign Office". D-Notice. 8 July 2006. Retrieved 2008-07-18. 
  41. ^ "FCO Moves to Obtain Court Injunction Against Online Murder in Samarkand Documents!". The Craig Murray Friends Blog (Wayback Machine archive). 7 July 2006. Archived from the original on 21 August 2007. Retrieved 18 July 2008. 
  42. ^ "Infringement of Crown Copyright" (PDF). Treasury Solicitors. 7 July 2006. Retrieved 18 July 2008. 
  43. ^ "The World's Billionaires". Forbes. 3 August 2007. Retrieved 18 July 2008. 
  44. ^ Murray's views on Alisher Usmanov
  45. ^ "Alisher Usmanov, potential Arsenal chairman, is a Vicious Thug, Criminal, Racketeer, Heroin Trafficker and Accused Rapist". Alisher Usmanov. September 2007. Retrieved 18 July 2008.  (A copy of the original post by Craig Murray)
  46. ^ Tryhorn, Chris (21 September 2007). "Boris website down after legal row". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 October 2007. 
  47. ^ "Saturday Play, Murder in Samarkand". BBC Radio Drama. BBC. Retrieved 20 February 2010. 
  48. ^ Maume, Chris (21 February 2010). "The Saturday Play: Murder in Samarkand". London: The Independent. Retrieved 22 February 2010. 

References[edit]

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Lorraine Kelly
Rector of the University of Dundee
2007–2010
Succeeded by
Brian Cox