Two days ago – and two after Tuesday’s sentencing in Virginia, USA, of whistle-blower Daniel Hale – the UK Supreme Court denied Craig Murray leave to appeal his sentencing on May 11 in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Craig will now start his eight month stretch on Sunday. It will be the first jailing for contempt of court in half a century. And the first ever for ‘jigsaw’ identification: publishing facts which in the jury-free court’s view could enable a hypothetical person to triangulate them with others in the public domain, and thereby establish the identity of protected witnesses.
The famed blogger opened his post yesterday with tongue in very British cheek …
This blog will be going dark for a few months. The Queen kindly paid for my dinners for over twenty years while I was a British diplomat and Ambassador, and now she is going to be paying for my dinners again. That is very kind, I thought she had forgotten me.
… followed by a statement written a week or so earlier by his wife Nadira, who hails from – this is kind of relevant – Uzbekistan.
A report of Craig’s trial and its implications for burden of proof, the impartial administration of justice and the separation of executive from judicial arms of the state was given in my post of May 12, the day after Lady Dorrian handed down his sentence.
Dorrian was also the judge in the failed prosecution of Alex Salmond; Craig’s blog coverage of which has led to his imprisonment even as corporate journalists equally culpable, notably Kirsty Wark of BBC Newsnight fame, have gone, ahem, scot free. 1
As the judge in Salmond’s trial – his acquittal by a jury of eight women and five men clearly not the outcome she’d rooted for – Dorrian was ill placed to preside with impartiality over that of Craig Murray. Least of all in a jury free court. This second trial, after all, centred on an offence allegedly arising from his scathing but close-argued claims of abuses and the stink of political vendetta hanging over that earlier one. 2
Truth be told, Dorrian was no better placed for impartial judgment on Craig Murray than Emma Arbuthnott – Vanessa Baraister’s boss – had been in the extradition hearings of Julian Assange.
Craig sacrificed a glittering diplomatic career when, still in his thirties but already Ambassador to Uzbekistan, he went public on President Karimov’s habit of boiling alive his political foes. (This was too much for the morally insane Tony Blair, since Karimov was allowing coalition air strikes on Baghdad from former Soviet airbases in the fiefdom he was also robbing blind.)
But Craig also champions other whistle-blowers. See his detailed daily reports on the Assange Hearings from the gallery at Belmarsh, even as the Guardian and other corporate media stayed away to pen the occasional laconic paragraph for the pages less read. The seismic implications for journalism were clearly deemed too banal for front page treatment.
Julian Assange … Chelsea Manning …. Edward Snowden … Daniel Hale … Katharine Gun …
I don’t wish to be misunderstood here. I do not post the above graphic in throwaway manner, in a spirit of poetic licence or artistic hyperbole. I grow daily more convinced of the literal truth of what Edward Snowden says; a truth echoed in Caitlin Johnstone’s words:
The world doesn’t work the way we were taught in school. The very worst bad guys are not locked away by the good guys who run things because the very worst bad guys are the ones who run things.
I’m sufficiently confident – depressed and fearful, naturally, but confident – of this truth to enter into amicable and factually grounded debate with anyone of differing view. Any takers?
* * *
- As with Julian Assange a concerted effort is underway, Lady Dorrian fully onboard, to conjure up objective and principled differences between ‘legitimate’ corporate media (their systemic inability to speak truth to power often dissected on this site, most recently here) and ‘illegitimate’ blog sites. Even Barack Obama, no friend to whistle blowers, baulked at the perils of a course so subjective and legally frail. This and this alone is why, for all his enthusiasm for seeing the man behind bars, he backed off on Julian.
- Speaking of the stink of politics, Jonathan Cook seldom in my experience resorts to sarcasm. That he did so in his post yesterday I take as a sign that his fury and alarm match my own: “Murray’s imprisonment by Scotland’s second most senior judge is of course based entirely on a keen reading of Scottish law rather than the Scottish and London political establishments seeking revenge on the former diplomat. And the UK supreme court refusal to hear Murray’s appeal despite many glaring legal anomalies – so paving his path to jail – is equally rooted in a strict application of the law, and not influenced in any way by political considerations.” (The two paragraphs which follow are in similar vein.) NB – below the report Jonathan Cook links to, author Mohamed Elmaazi responds to a comment ill thought through. In doing so he brings out some of the real problems confronting trials for sexual offences, even when prosecutions are not politically driven.
- The Diplock Courts at the height of the ‘Troubles’ in the Six Counties were jury free, but Britain’s role in a partitioned Ireland is too big a subject for a footnote. I know of two other arenas where jury free trials are being touted. One is complex fraud, where it is argued that minutely detailed evidence is too arcane for ordinary jurors to assess. Here too I will pass, save to note that the argument at least makes sense in principle, if not in practice. The other is rape, where the only rationale I have heard for jury free trials is that conviction rates are too low. And so they are. But jury free trials, as none other than Lady Dorrian wishes to see, could only raise conviction rates by lowering the threshold of proof, inevitably condemning yet more innocent men to long prison terms. Moreover, measures cheered in on the back of moral panics – and these are easily manufactured given the systemic corruption of corporate media – are prone to scope creep. State encroachment on hard won liberties (nowadays made often as not in the name of ‘woke’ ideals) will of course begin with the low hanging fruit of unpopular targets. Nor should it escape our notice that smears of a sexual nature have proved a useful tool for dealing with those who really do speak truth to power. Think Julian Assange, Scott Ritter and, indeed, Craig Murray.
- Murray’s jailing not, “at first blush”, for whistle blowing? One of many concerns in the Salmond trial is a key difference from otherwise comparable trials. In the latter, sex offenders have been convicted when victims who did not know one another, so could not have colluded, gave testimony of strikingly similar detail. But the Alex Salmond prosecution witnesses not only did know one another. They were also in contact with the office of Salmond’s erstwhile ally turned adversary, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. From that office came a smoking gun text showing the vindictiveness in play. Dorrian ruled it inadmissible. Had that trial been in Russia, we’d never hear the last of it. But it was not in Russia. Like Craig’s it was in Edinburgh. This fact, and lack of media interest attendant on it, makes Craig Murray, who reported daily and at length on the glaring anomalies of the Salmond trial, a whistle-blower even within the narrow terms of his ‘jigsaw’ conviction.