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.
Rector of the University of Dundee
In office
Preceded byLorraine Kelly
Succeeded byBrian Cox
British Ambassador to Uzbekistan
In office
Personal details
Born (1958-10-17) 17 October 1958 (age 61)
West Runton, Norfolk, England
  • Fiona Kennedy
    (m. 1984; div. 2008)
  • Nadira Alieva
    (m. 2009)
EducationPaston School
Alma materUniversity of Dundee

Craig John Murray (born 17 October 1958)[1][2][3] is a British former diplomat turned political activist, human rights campaigner, blogger and whistleblower.

Between 2002 and 2004, he was the British ambassador to Uzbekistan during which he exposed the human rights violations of the Karimov administration. This led to conflict with his superiors in the Foreign Office until finally he was removed from the post.[4][5] Specifically, Murray complained to the Foreign Office repeatedly that intelligence received by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from the Uzbek government was unreliable because it had been obtained through torture,[6] a fact later confirmed by European investigators.[4][7]

Subsequently he became a political activist, campaigning for human rights and for transparency in global politics as well as for the independence of Scotland. Between 2007 and 2010 he was the elected Rector of the University of Dundee.

His books include Sikunder Burnes: Master of the Great Game (2016), The Catholic Orangemen of Togo (2009), and a memoir Murder in Samarkand (2006).

Early life and career[edit]

Family and education[edit]

Murray was born in West Runton, Norfolk, to Robert Cameron Brunton Murray and Poppy Katherine Murray (née Grice)[1] and was raised in neighbouring Sheringham. His father, one of 13 children, had worked in the docks in Leith, Scotland, before joining the Royal Air Force.[5] Murray was educated at Sheringham Primary and then at Paston School, an all-boys state grammar school in North Walsham in Norfolk, which he greatly disliked.[8] He told John Crace in 2007 that pupils were obliged each week to don "military uniform and become cadets. Either I skipped school or refused to take part, so I was frequently suspended". His A-levels suffered as a result.[9]

According to his blog, Murray joined the Liberal Party in 1973,[10] refounding, with two others, the defunct North Norfolk constituency Liberal constituency 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 (father of journalist Charles Moore) fought North Norfolk in both 1974 elections, the first Liberal for some years to contest the seat.

Murray became President of the East Anglian Federation of Young Liberals. Aged 16 he was elected to the National Council of the Liberal Party to represent the Eastern Region of England. At the University of Dundee, to which, Murray said, he barely gained admission to read Modern History, he "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.[8] At Dundee University, Murray remained active in Liberal then Liberal Democrat politics. Murray was elected President of his University Students Union as an avowed Liberal.

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 prevent him running a third time.[8] He spent seven years in total at the university, he had to re-sit one year for not attending tutorials, compared to a normal four years for a Scottish first degree.[8]

Early years in HM Diplomatic Service[edit]

Murray sat the 1984 Civil Service Open Competition exams in his second year as the Students' Association President because a woman he was interested in was also sitting them, although he had no interest in entering the civil service.[11] Later, after he was told he was in the top three of his year, he chose the HM Diplomatic Service because "it seemed marginally more glamorous than anything else on offer".[9][11]

Murray had a number of overseas postings with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to Nigeria, Poland (in the 1990s, where he was first secretary heading the embassy's political and economic section)[12] and Ghana.[5] 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.[13][14]

Ambassador to Uzbekistan[edit]

Murray was appointed as the British ambassador to Uzbekistan, at the age of 43, where he was formally in office from August 2002 to October 2004, when he was dismissed.[15] He told Nick Paton Walsh, then with The Guardian, in July 2004 that "there is no point in having cocktail-party relationships with a fascist regime".[16] About a fortnight after his arrival, Murray recounted in a 2005 University of York speech, he observed a court trial at which an elderly defendant said his statement about two of the other accused, nephews of his, had been made as he watched his children being tortured and the claim the two men were associates of Osama Bin Laden was entirely false.[12]

Human rights[edit]

"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".[17] "The brave and honest ambassador", Cohen commented,[17] 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.[18] In the speech, Murray said that:

Uzbekistan is not a functioning democracy, nor does it appear to be moving in the direction of democracy. The major political parties are banned; Parliament is not subject to democratic election and checks and balances on the authority of the electorate are lacking. There is worse: we believe there to be between 7,000 and 10,000 people in detention whom we would consider as political and/or religious prisoners. In many cases they have been falsely convicted of crimes with which there appears to be no credible evidence they had any connection."[17][18]

According to Nick Paton Walsh for a Guardian article: "The Foreign Office cleared the speech, but not without an acrimonious struggle over its content".[16] Murray also said in his speech that the boiling to death of two men (reportedly members of Hizb ut-Tahrir[12]) was "not an isolated incident."[16] A photograph of one of the men showed that his fingernails had been pulled out.[6] The American ambassador John Herbst was present at the event and reportedly "livid" at Murray's speech. According to a report in The Sunday Times, he was advised by Whitehall not to antagonise the government in Tashkent any further.[19] The Americans were said to have put pressure on the British government for Murray to tone down his comments.[20] The then Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan confronted Uzbek President Islam Karimov with Murray's assertions.[21]

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 criticising human rights violations by Saddam Hussein, that "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."[22] The human rights abuses were worse in Uzbekistan than in Iraq, thought Murray in the run up to the invasion of Iraq, but the latter was being invaded while the government of the former was being supported.[21] In an internal document by Murray, later leaked to the Financial Times, he commented that Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) used intelligence provided by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from the Uzbek authorities gained through torture. "Torture dupes are forced to sign up to confessions showing what the Uzbek government wants the US and UK to believe", he wrote.[23] "It is morally, legally and practically wrong to continue to receive this material. It is hypocritical and fatally undermines our moral standing," he wrote in a July 2004 dispatch.[4] Murray denied being responsible for the leaks.[24]

According to Murray, the Uzbek government overstated the activities of local militants and their connections to Al-Qaeda[23] and, he wrote in The Washington Post later, the material from the CIA "revealed the same pattern of information" as the "forced confessions" of which he had become aware.[6] The British government in October 2004 said neither it, nor the intelligence agencies, had ever used torture or encouraged others to so on its behalf.[23] A later enquiry by The Washington Post, in connection with an interview with Murray, did not indicate the British had instituted an "absolute ban" on using information gained via torture. The Foreign Office legal team in March 2003, according to Murray, told him there was nothing to prevent their use of information gained by the Uzbeks using these methods.[4]

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.[16] 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.[16] Representatives of the US embassy in Tashkent and the British Foreign Office later denied the American government had any involvement in Murray being recalled to London.[21] However, a "local analyst" in Tashkent told Nick Paton Walsh, Murray and the American ambassador John Herbst (who left his Uzbekistan post in 2003) were regularly in heated disagreement.[25]

Murray collapsed during a medical check in Tashkent on 2 September 2003 and was airlifted to St Thomas' Hospital in London. He was treated in hospital for depression having seriously considered taking his own life.[16][4] 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 Land Rover) were dropped. The charges were leaked to the press in October 2003.[21] Murray returned to work in mid-November 2003.[26] Only a few days after his return to Uzbekistan, Murray suffered another health crisis and was again flown back to London for medical treatment.[27] It turned out to have been a near-fatal pulmonary embolism on a lung.[28]

Around the same time, a group of more than a dozen British expatriates in Tashkent, including businessmen, wrote to the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw defending Murray as an advocate for inward British trade. One of the co-signers of the letter said there was a "common belief that Mr Murray is being sacrificed to the Americans".[20] Members of Ozod Ovoz (Free Voice), a free speech group in the country pleaded with Blair and Bush for Murray to remain in his post as he was "an example for other ambassadors".[29] Murray's stance was also supported by Clare Short, by then a former Secretary of State for International Development, and Daniel Hannan, the Conservative Member of the European Parliament (MEP).[30][31]

The FCO exonerated him of all 18 charges in January 2004 after a four-month investigation but reprimanded him for speaking about them. Speaking in the Commons, the Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell said the government "endorse his comments about the human rights situation in Uzbekistan".[32]

Removal from post[edit]

Murray was removed from his post in October 2004,[33] shortly after the Financial Times leak, which Murray later told Amy Goodman, he thought had been leaked by the British government to incriminate him.[23][34]

The FCO denied any direct connection and stated that Murray had been removed for "operational" reasons, later a "disciplinary" explanation after Murray gave interviews to the media.[24] 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", although he did not then believe the Americans were involved.[35][36] 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.[24] Murray was sacked in 2004.[12] and given a severance package by the FCO in February 2005, which was mostly used for paying tax and his divorce.[5]

A later report by European investigators found that Uzbekistan was used as a base in the American programme of extraordinary rendition during the War in Afghanistan (the neighbouring country) and Iraq, which remained secret during Murray's time in the country, because such countries were tolerant of the use of torture. He gave this as a reason to Kevin Sullivan of The Washington Post in January 2008 to explain why the response to his revelations was so "ferocious".[4]

Subsequent career[edit]

Academic career[edit]

Murray was elected to the position of Rector of the University of Dundee, his alma mater, on 16 February 2007.[37] The other nominee was former British Lion and Scotland rugby captain Andy Nicol. Murray opposed the cuts to University departments and services which were proposed.[9] He remained on the post until 2010.

Political activities[edit]

Murray remained a member of the Liberal Democrats until 2005. He has continued his opposition to the War on Terror, twice standing for election to the House of Commons. At the May 2005 general election he stood as an independent, in Blackburn, Lancashire, against his former boss, Jack Straw, then the MP for the constituency. He polled 2,082 votes (5.0%) and came fifth out of seven candidates.[38]

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".[39] He polled 953 votes (2.77%), which placed him sixth out of the twelve candidates.

Murray rejoined the Liberal Democrats, according to his blog entry on 22 March 2010.[40] By September 2011, he had left the Liberal Democrats again, as he objected to policies pursued by the coalition government, and joined the Scottish National Party.[10][41]

Murray supported the "Yes" campaign in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. Following his failed bid for SNP nomination, Murray resigned from the SNP in March 2016 "to campaign for Scottish Independence" in the 2017 parliamentary election.[42]


In 2011–2012, Murray exposed a series of secret meetings that had been taking place from September 2009 between Britain's then defence minister Liam Fox, Fox’s friend Adam Werritty, the UK Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould, and sometimes Denis MacShane and Mossad agents with an intention of enlisting British support for an Israeli attack on Iran.[43][44]

In August 2012, Murray spoke outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London in support of Julian Assange and whistleblowers around the world.[45]

Contradicting the claims of American security services who asserted that the Russian authorities had hacked the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton servers and leaked campaign emails before the US 2016 presidential election,[46] Murray wrote in December 2016 that the leak was the work of a DNC insider, claiming to have spoken to the leak author.[47]

In 2019, he discredits the sections of the Mueller Report that deal with the leak of Democratic National Committee and John Podesta emails to WikiLeaks. His attacks focus on mistakes made by Bob Mueller in the investigation. Among the mistakes claimed are that Mueller didn't order a forensic analysis of the DNC server, nor of Seth Rich's computer equipment, and didn't interview Bill Binney for his analysis showing the documents were transferred at 49.1 mb/s,[48][49] from which Binney concluded a local thumb drive was used for the transfer since remote Russian hackers couldn't achieve those rates. However, Nathan Freitas of the Guardian Project showed that at least two other scenarios (single hop public cloud server connection and RAT controlled LAN computer) controlled by remote access could actually achieve those rates.[50] Other mistakes claimed are that Mueller refused to depose Julian Assange who claims physical evidence that the leaks did not come from Russia, Andrew Muller-Maguhn wasn't asked for evidence even though Mueller considered him the likely DNC leaks courier and that considering Guccifer 2.0 were Russian agent(s) was based on flimsy evidence and, as Bill Binney states, the NSA PRISM Surveillance Program packet sniffing mechanism would have detected the Guccifer transfer. One last criticism of Mueller's investigation was in Mueller's behavior when some of the actual 12 Russians accused of being GRU agents, who took part in the hack, showed up to the US districts for the cases. When they appeared, Mueller asked for an immediate adjournment then fought to limit disclosure.[51] Murray concludes Mueller is "entirely corrupt". [49]

Murray criticised UK involvement in the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen. In April 2018, Murray wrote that "Saudi Arabia consistently and regularly uses British weapons to bomb schools, hospitals and civilians".[52]

Murray has recently questioned the official narrative of the Skripal poisoning in Salisbury, March 2018. Murray, who has visited the former chemical site at Nukus, Uzbekistan, where novichok was manufactured, claimed that Russia's stocks had been dismantled with US assistance.[53]

His activism has been criticised in some quarters for promoting conspiracy theories.[54][55]

In September 2018, Murray claimed in a blog post that the photos issued by the Metropolitan Police of the suspects in the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal were "impossible" because they depicted the two suspects at the same place at the same time. He later retracted the claim and left the post up but corrected, saying "it is good to acknowledge mistakes".[56][57] This claim was also made by the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova.[58] A Metropolitan Police spokesperson confirmed that the photographs "of two suspects at Gatwick are taken from two different cameras covering separate lanes at the point passengers exit from international arrivals".[56]

Murray's Facebook account was censored and all posts from July 2017 onwards were deleted, by Facebook.[59]

Entrepreneurial activities[edit]

Murray is Executive Chairman of Atholl Energy Ltd[60] and Chairman of Westminster Development Ltd, a gold mining company, both operating in Accra, Ghana.[61]

Murray helps organise the independent music and arts festival "Doune the Rabbit Hole"[62] in Stirlingshire and the Eden Festival.[63][64]


Legal issues[edit]

In September 2007, shortly after Alisher Usmanov's investment in Arsenal Football Club, Murray blogged about the character of Usmanov, a Russian multi-billionaire Forbes magazine had identified as the 142nd wealthiest person in the world.[65] He said he named Usmanov, alleging corruption, in two of his "quite highly classified" telegrams to the Foreign Office London in 2002 and 2004 written while Murray was ambassador in Uzbekistan.[66] Usmanov's solicitors, Schillings, requested that the hosting company Fasthosts delete the material. As a result, the server that hosted Murray's blog was permanently closed by the hosting company on 20 September 2007, an action which resulted in unintended deletion of other sites, including the blog by Boris Johnson.[67][68]

An attempt to release the Foreign Office documents was made by Jeremy Corbyn, then a backbench Labour MP, in whose constituency Arsenal is based. In late October 2007, Jim Murphy, then minister for Europe, refused to release the documents on data protection grounds.[66]

Blaming Israel for Skripal Attack[edit]

In 2018, Murray was criticized for spreading a conspiracy theory that Israel was responsible for the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal.[69] He was called a "conspiracy peddler" for blaming Israel, after the British government produced an assessment supported by 28 other countries determining that Russia was responsible for the attack.[70]

Personal life[edit]

Murray married his first wife, Fiona Ann Kennedy, in 1984.[1] They had two children before separating in 2004.[16][71] Murray married Nadira Alieva, an Uzbek woman, on 6 May 2009;[72] they have a son.[73]


Murder in Samarkand[edit]

Murray's book Murder in Samarkand - A British Ambassador's Controversial Defiance of Tyranny in the War on Terror (2006) is a memoir about his time as an ambassador.[74]

In December 2005, Murray published confidential memos on his website, which had been officially removed from the text when Murder in Samarkand was submitted for checking.[75] He had initially acceded to these cuts.[6] According to Murray, the British government "refused to clear it" uncut. The Foreign Office, after publication was announced, "said that they wouldn't seek to prevent publication but that they may act against it later".[5]

The British government claimed copyright over the documents in July 2006, saying they were "damaging to the national interest" and demanding they be removed. In response, Murray deleted some of the material.

A radio play Murder in Samarkand, written by Sir David Hare, and based on Murray's book was broadcast by BBC Radio 4 on 20 February 2010 with David Tennant as Murray.[76][77]

Murray, Craig (2006). Murder in Samarkand. Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing. ISBN 1-84596-194-3.

  • Murray, Craig (2007a). Murder in Samarkand (paperback ed.). Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing. ISBN 1-84596-221-4.
  • Murray, Craig (2007b). Dirty Diplomacy. New York: Scribner. ISBN 1-4165-4801-7. (US edition of Murder in Samarkand)

Other books[edit]


  • January 2006: the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence, in recognition of his campaigning work on torture and human rights[78]
  • November 2006: the Premio Alta Qualità della Città di Bologna[79]

Murray has turned down three honours from Queen Elizabeth saying letters after his name are "not his thing" and because of his commitment to Scottish republicanism.[16][80]

Portrayals in fiction[edit]

Murray's life featured in a show by Nadira Alieva, The British Ambassador's Bellydancer, initially presented in 2007 at the Arcola Theatre in Hackney, later moving to London's West End.[81][82]

Robin Soans used an interview with Murray and Alieva as a character for his Verbatim style play Talking to Terrorists which had a successful run at the Royal Court Theatre and has since been produced worldwide.[83][84] Soans used Murray again as a verbatim character in his later play Life After Scandal in which Murray "tells of how scandal was used against him when the government wanted to undermine his claims about humanitarian disasters".[85]

On 20 February 2010 BBC Radio Four broadcast a radio play Murder in Samarkand, written by Sir David Hare and directed by Clive Brill, based on Murray's book.[76] The play, with David Tennant portraying Craig Murray, was nominated for best drama at the Sony Radio Academy Awards 2011[86] and had positive reviews.[87]


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External links[edit]

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