Monday 5 October 2020

"These are Dangerous Times"


Reg Keys is the father of L/Cpl Reg Keys, who was killed in Iraq in 2003. He was left an angry man. His son he said was, with his five fellow soldiers, “let down in life by the men who sent them to their deaths and they have been let down in death by the people who continually deny responsibility.” Reg stood against Tony Blair in the 2005 General Election when I was working at the Stop the War Coalition. I supported Reg in the early stages of his campaign and helped Brian Eno organise his first press conference. Reg himself has told of the harrasment he received at this time and I too had frightening experiences I have never talked about. 


Here is how harrasment is practised today. 


When at Stop the War I got to know ex-ambassador, Craig Murray. As a fellow whistleblower, I was an early reader of the account he gives of his time as UK ambassador in Uzbekistan, and how Jack Straw and Tony Blair rid themselves of this ‘truth teller’. I have followed and admired his life in the intervening years.

Craig has spent many weeks attending and reporting on the Julian Assange extradition hearings at the Old Bailey and these can be read on his website. His most recent post is chilling. Here it is ...

"On Saturday a small, socially distanced vigil of 18 people for Julian Assange at Piccadilly Circus was broken up by twice that number of police and one elderly man arrested and taken into custody. The little group of activists have been holding the vigil every week. I had just arrived to thank them and was astonished to see eight police vans and this utterly unnecessary police action. There could not be a clearer example of “Covid legislation” being used to crack down on unrelated, entirely peaceful political dissent.

I was myself questioned by a policeman who asked me where I lived, how long I had been in London and why, what I had been doing at the Assange trial and when I was going back to Edinburgh. (You can see me very briefly at 10 mins 30 secs trying to reason with a policeman who was entirely needlessly engaging in macho harassment of a nice older lady).

Later in the evening I had dinner with Kristin Hrafnsson, editor-in-chief of Wikileaks. I returned to my hotel about 11pm, did my ablutions and went to bed. Just after midnight I was awoken by an insistent and extremely loud pounding at the door of my room. I got naked out of bed and groped my way to open the door a chink. A man dressed like the hotel staff (black trousers, white shirt) asked me when I was checking out. I replied in the morning, and pointed out the hotel knew I was leaving the next day. Why was he asking in the middle of the night? The man said “I was asked to find out”. I closed the door and went back to bed.

The next morning I complained in the strongest possible terms, the hotel refunded me one night’s accommodation. The duty manager who did this added “It was not our fault” but said they could not tell me any more about why this had happened.

The person at my door had a native English accent. I had been staying in the hotel over four weeks and I think I know all of the customer facing staff – not a single one of them has a native English accent. I had never seen that man before. This was a four star hotel from a major chain. I suspect “do not get sleeping guests out of bed after midnight to ask them what time they are checking out” is pretty high on their staff training list. I cannot help but in my mind put it together with my encounter with the police earlier that day, and their interest in when I was returning to Edinburgh, but there seems no obvious purpose other than harassment.

The hotel incident may just be in the strange but unexplained category. The busting of the Assange vigil earlier is of a piece with the extraordinary blanking of the hearing by corporate media and the suppression of its reporting on social media. These are dangerous times.

I am now safely back home in Edinburgh."

Craig Murray website

More blogs on the Assange hearings below