Craig Murray

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Craig Murray
Personal details
Born (1958-10-17) 17 October 1958 (age 57)
West Runton, Norfolk, England
Nationality English
Education MA (Hons), University of Dundee

Craig John Murray (born 17 October 1958[1][2]) is a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, and was the Rector of the University of Dundee (2007–10).

While Ambassador 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.


Murray was born in West Runton, Norfolk, and grew up in neighbouring Sheringham. He was educated at Sheringham Primary and then at Paston School (now known as Paston College), an all-boys state grammar school in North Walsham in Norfolk, where he had an undistinguished record,[5] According to Murray, the school was run on "military lines", with formal teaching and rote learning, and Murray was suspended "mostly for refusing to turn up for the cadets", which was a compulsory obligation for pupils.[6] At the University of Dundee, to which, by his own account, he barely gained admission, he read Modern History, and "made a policy decision not to attend any lectures". Instead he "read voraciously" to teach himself, and graduated in 1982 with an MA (Hons) 1st Class.[6]

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 spent seven years in total at the university, he had to sit one year twice for not attending tutorials, compared to a normal four for a Scottish first degree.[6]

Murray sat the 1984 Civil Service Open Competition exams in his second year as the Students' Association President because a women he was interested in was also sitting them, although he had no interest in entering the civil service.[7] Later, after he was told he was in the top three of his year, he choose the HM Diplomatic Service because it was the only government department which interested him.[7] Murray 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 and US governments in 2002 about Iraqi WMDs.[8][9]


Murray was appointed as the British ambassador to Uzbekistan in 2002, at the age of 43, but was 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 the middle of October" 2002, Nick Cohen wrote in The Observer, Murray "delivered a speech which broke with all the established principles of Foreign Office diplomacy".[11] "The brave and honest ambassador", Cohen commented,[11] spoke at a human rights conference hosted by Freedom House in Tashkent, although David Stern reported in January 2003 for EurasiaNet that other western officials had made similar comments.[12] In the speech, Murray said that:

According to Nick Paton Walsh in an article for The Guardian: "The Foreign Office cleared the speech, but not without an acrimonious struggle over its content."[10] Murray also said in his speech that the boiling to death of two men, reportedly members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, was "not an isolated incident."[10][13] In one telegram Murray sent to London, he wrote that "Tortured dupes are forced to sign up to confessions showing what the Uzbek government wants the US and UK to believe".[14] Later, Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan confronted Uzbek President Islam Karimov with Murray's assertions.[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. Double standards? Yes."[14]

Disciplinary charges[edit]

Some of the embassy staff were sacked in July 2003 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. He was confronted with 18 charges on 21 August 2003. These included "hiring dolly birds [pretty young women] for above the usual rate" for the visa department, although Murray said that the department had an all-male staff, and Murray was accused of granting British visas to Uzbek women in exchange for sex in his office.[10] 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.[15]

Immediately after 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.[10]

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.[16]

The FCO denied any direct connection and stated that Murray had been removed for "operational" reasons. He was suspended, amid claims that he had lost the confidence of senior officials and colleagues. The following day, in an interview on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Murray countered that he was a "victim of conscience", and in this and other interviews was critical of the FCO.[17][18] A week later he was accused of "gross misconduct" by the FCO. A spokesman said "He is suspended on full pay pending an investigation into his conduct. I think it is more what he said than giving interviews" to the media.[19] Murray was sacked in 2004.[13]

Subsequent career[edit]

Murray has continued his opposition to the War on Terror since leaving HM Diplomatic Service. He published a number of confidential memos in December 2005 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.[20] Murray's book Murder in Samarkand - A British Ambassador's Controversial Defiance of Tyranny in the War on Terror[21] (2006) is a memoir about his time as an ambassador.

Murray was elected to the position of Rector of the University of Dundee, his alma mater, on 16 February 2007. The other nominee was former British Lion and Scotland rugby captain Andy Nicol.[22] 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]

He was elected an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Lancaster School of Law in July 2007. 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.[23][24] She invited him to perform in it, but he declined, citing lack of acting ability.[24]

Murray is Executive Chairman of Atholl Energy Ltd[25] and Chairman of Westminster Development Ltd, a gold mining company, both operating in Accra, Ghana.[26]

Political activity[edit]

According to his blog, Murray joined the Liberal Party in 1973,[27] refounding, with two others, the defunct North Norfolk constituency Liberal party. Murray wrote to the 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.

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 was then 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".[28] 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.[29] He voted for the coalition with the Conservatives at the Lib Dem special conference in Birmingham to approve the deal. He had left the party again by September 2011 owing to his objections to privatisation within the education system and the National Health Service (NHS). He joined the Scottish National Party at this time.[27]

Murray spoke in August 2012 outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London in support of Julian Assange and whistleblowers around the world. He was criticised by the feminist writer Joan Smith when she appeared with Murray on an edition of Newsnight, for identifying one of Assange's alleged rape victims during the discussion. Subsequently, Smith was followed by the Swedish prosecutors and campaigners opposing violence against women.[30][31]

ÏMurray supported the Yes campaign in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. Following the referendum, which was won by the No campaign, Murray wrote on his blog that those who had voted No were "so stupid I am astonished that their cerebral cortex can transmit a signal that sparks respiration. They are probably not capable of ever noticing their error". No voters, he continued, were "either evil, or quite extraordinarily thick."[32] He was selected as the SNP candidate by the local party in the Airdrie and Shotts constituency for the 2015 general election, but his candidacy was blocked by national party officials.[33]

Legal pressure[edit]

During an interview with the American radio presenter 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.[34][35] 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.[36] Murray replied he looked forward to arguing the case in court: no writ was ever issued.

In September 2007, Murray commented upon the character of Alisher Usmanov, Russia's 18th richest man,[37] following Usmanov's investment in Arsenal Football Club.[38] However, the post 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.[39]

Personal life and awards[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 lap dancing club in Tashkent during 2003.[30] When he left Uzbekistan in October 2004, she joined him in London.[40] The couple married on 6 May 2009[41] and had a son, Cameron, later that year.[42]

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.[43]

In November 2006, he was awarded the Premio Alta Qualità della Città di Bologna.[44]

Murray in popular culture[edit]

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.[45][46]


  • 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. 


  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. ^ a b c Sale, Jonathan (30 November 2006). "Passed/Failed: An education in the life of Craig Murray, former ambassador". Retrieved 8 February 2016. 
  7. ^ a b "Sex . Scandal. Human rights abuse and a touring folk band.". The Herald (Glasgow). 19 March 2005. 
  8. ^ Hainey, Raymond (31 December 2005). "Memos 'Prove Evidence used from Uzbek Secret Police'". Scotsman. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  9. ^ Dirty Diplomacy, p 170
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h Paton Walsh, Nick (18 October 2003). "The envoy who said too much". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 10 February 2016. 
  11. ^ a b c Cohen, Nick (15 December 2002). "Trouble in Tashkent". The Observer. Retrieved 10 February 2016. 
  12. ^ a b Stern, David (14 January 2003). "British Envoy's Speech Reverberates in Uzbekistan". Civil Society. EurasiaNet. Archived from the original on 4 September 2008. 
  13. ^ a b Murray, Craig (24 February 2005). ""The pathologist also found that his fingernails had been pulled out. That clearly took me a back"". Archived from the original on 17 June 2006. 
  14. ^ a b "The UK was Complicit in Torture in Uzbekistan". Scoop. 30 December 2005. Retrieved 18 July 2008. 
  15. ^ Leigh, David; Paton Walsh, Nick; MacAskill, Ewen (18 October 2003). "Ambassador Accused after Criticising US". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 18 July 2008. 
  16. ^ "'Torture Intelligence' Criticised". BBC News. 11 October 2004. Retrieved 18 July 2008. 
  17. ^ Berg, Sanchia (15 October 2004). "Ambassador Speaks Out". Today Programme (BBC Radio 4). Retrieved 18 July 2008. 
  18. ^ "Former British envoy is suspended". BBC News. 17 October 2004. Retrieved 8 February 2016. 
  19. ^ MacAskill, Ewen (24 October 2004). "Ex-Envoy to Face Discipline Charges, says FO". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 18 July 2008. 
  20. ^ "Damning Documentary Evidence Unveiled. Dissident Bloggers in Coordinated Exposé of UK Government Lies over Torture.". Craig Murray. 29 December 2005. Retrieved 18 July 2008. 
  21. ^ "Murder in Samarkand - Documents". Craig Murray. Retrieved 18 July 2008. 
  22. ^ "No Second Term for Rector Kelly". BBC News. 4 January 2007. Retrieved 18 July 2008. 
  23. ^ Lamb, Christina (9 December 2007), "Ambassador's belly dancer stages her life", The Times (London), retrieved 5 November 2009 
  24. ^ a b Logan, Brian (7 January 2008), "Sex, scandal and sequins", The Guardian (London), retrieved 5 November 2009 
  25. ^ "Siemens, Atholl Build 75 MW Power". Modern Ghana. 20 Dec 2007. Retrieved 7 July 2009. 
  26. ^ "About Craig Murray". Craig Murray. Retrieved 7 July 2009. 
  27. ^ a b Murray, Craig (18 September 2011). "The Lonely Liberal". Craig Murray (blog). Retrieved 8 February 2016. 
  28. ^ Craig Murray 2009 by-election for Norwich North
  29. ^ "On Being A Liberal Democrat". Craig Murray's blog. 22 March 2010. 
  30. ^ a b Hough, Andrew; Orange, Richard (21 August 2012). "Julian Assange: Swedish prosecutors censure sex case naming diplomat". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 8 February 2016. 
  31. ^ Khomami, Nadia (21 August 2012). "Former UK ambassador names alleged rape victim on Newsnight". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 8 February 2016. 
  32. ^ Murray, Craig (5 October 2014). "Lack of Forgiveness". Retrieved 22 October 2014. 
  33. ^ Whitaker, Andrew (28 December 2014). "SNP block Craig Murray general election candidacy". Retrieved 9 February 2016. 
  34. ^ "Craig Murray vs the Foreign Office". D-Notice. 8 July 2006. Retrieved 2008-07-18. 
  35. ^ "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. 
  36. ^ "Infringement of Crown Copyright" (PDF). Treasury Solicitors. 7 July 2006. Retrieved 18 July 2008. 
  37. ^ "The World's Billionaires". Forbes. 3 August 2007. Retrieved 18 July 2008. 
  38. ^ "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)
  39. ^ Tryhorn, Chris (21 September 2007). "Boris website down after legal row". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 October 2007. 
  40. ^ Gedye, Robin (23 October 2004). "The envoy silenced after telling undiplomatic truths". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 8 February 2016. 
  41. ^ "On Being Happy". Craig Murray's personal blog. 5 May 2009. 
  42. ^ "CRAIG MURRAY: I might be the worst by-election candidate in history - but after that result we are all losers - Daily Mail Online". Mail Online. 
  43. ^ "Craig Murray on Receiving the Samuel Adams Award". World Can't Wait. 15 February 2006. Retrieved 18 July 2008. 
  44. ^ "Premio Alta Qualità delle Città of Bologna". Premio Alta Qualità. Archived from the original on 17 January 2008. Retrieved 18 July 2008. 
  45. ^ "Saturday Play, Murder in Samarkand". BBC Radio Drama. BBC. Retrieved 20 February 2010. 
  46. ^ Maume, Chris (21 February 2010). "The Saturday Play: Murder in Samarkand". London: The Independent. Retrieved 22 February 2010. 


External links[edit]

Selected writings of Murray
Academic offices
Preceded by
Lorraine Kelly
Rector of the University of Dundee
Succeeded by
Brian Cox