Monday, May 9, 2005

In the recent UK general election, Craig Murray stood as candidate against Jack Straw in the Blackburn constituency. Murray was attempting to bring about public debate and public knowledge of Straw’s alleged complicity in Uzbek CIA torture. Straw retained his seat with 17,562 votes (42%), while Murray came fifth with 2,082 votes (5%).

Craig Murray was British Ambassador to Uzbekistan in 2002 and 2003. A career diplomat, Murray had a good record of success behind him, but was withdrawn from Uzbekistan after he publicly decried the widespread use of torture in that country. He was quoted in the Financial Times as claiming the MI6 used intelligence gained by the Uzbek authorities by torture.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) stated at the time that “It’s now felt it’s no longer possible Mr. Murray can do his job effectively so he’s been withdrawn.” Mr. Murray was receiving medical treatment at the time for on-going ill health, including a near-fatal pulmonary embolism. He had previously been flown to London after collapsing during a medical check in Uzbekistan.

Craig Murray’s campaign website says, “A vote for Jack Straw is a vote for torture. Jack Straw expressly agreed that MI6 should use intelligence material obtained under torture, in tyrannical regimes like Uzbekistan.”

Two months before the UK election Channel Four premiered the program “Torture:The Dirty Business” which showed that the Uzbekistan government routinely uses torture to interrogate prisoners. It showed that CIA had sent prisoners to that country to be tortured in a procedure known as rendition.

The program alleged that UK’s MI5 received information obtained by torture. The FCO released a statement to the program claiming that they would never do anything to encourage torture, but that it would be “irresponsible” to rule out the use of any information received from a foreign government if such information could help protect British citizens. In the same program Craig Murray stated that after he raised objections to the use of information extracted under torture, his superiors informed him that Jack Straw had personally authorised the policy.

According to the program, confessions from tortured prisoners that suggested a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda could have contributed towards the case built by the government for going to war in Iraq. Information extracted under torture is known to be unreliable because prisoners can be coerced to say anything.

Craig Murray’s Blackburn campaign received widespread media attention around the world, although coverage was more limited in the UK (see below for links to some articles covering the Craig Murray campaign).

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