Memos 'prove evidence used from Uzbek secret police'

Key points

• Former Uzbekistan ambassador leaks confidential documents on internet

• Data shows UK used information obtained by torture in war on terror

• Murray also writing book based on experiences as ambassador

Key quote

"The Foreign Office can take me to court to try to stop me getting any money from the book. They could also take me to court under the Official Secrets Act and try to put me in prison. But this is such a hot question about torture and intelligence, I don't think I have any choice but to publish. They can do their worst." - CRAIG MURRAY

Story in full A FORMER British ambassador has defied the Foreign Office and published damning confidential documents which he says show the government knowingly used intelligence obtained by torture overseas.

Craig Murray, formerly the ambassador to Uzbekistan, could face prosecution under the Official Secrets Act after placing a series of memos between himself and the Foreign Office on the internet.

Mr Murray was intending to use his controversial material in a forthcoming book on his experiences in the former Soviet republic, but last week the Foreign Office told him not to publish the documents.

Mr Murray says the memos are proof that the government decided to use information obtained through torture by the notorious Uzbek secret police because it was useful in prosecuting the "war on terror".

In one, the Foreign Office's own legal adviser justified the use of such information by saying it was not in breach of the UN Convention on Torture.

Mr Murray's revelations come as the government continues to face pressure over alleged US "torture flights" refuelling at UK airports, including Glasgow, Edinburgh and Prestwick.

The CIA has been accused of using civilian aircraft to transport terror suspects to face possible torture in jurisdictions technically outside their control - a process known as extraordinary rendition.

A defiant Mr Murray last night said he had no choice but to release the information on the internet.

He said: "The Foreign Office can take me to court to try to stop me getting any money from the book. They could also take me to court under the Official Secrets Act and try to put me in prison.

"But this is such a hot question about torture and intelligence, I don't think I have any choice but to publish. They can do their worst."

The memos have now been posted on the internet and are on thousands of blogs.

Mr Murray said: "There is no point in trying to put the genie back into the bottle. I want to publish the book and I want to make some money, but you don't need to buy the book to get the documents.

"If people want them, they can get them for nothing on the internet."

The blocked documents are the texts of several telegrams Mr Murray sent to London between 2002 and 2004, warning that confessions obtained via torture by Uzbek security services was useless.

In one memo, sent to the Foreign Office in July 2004, Mr Murray describes a meeting where a top official speaking on behalf of the security services defended the use of the Uzbek information, saying it was "very useful indeed" in the war on terror.

Mr Murray said there was a later meeting where the decision was again made to continue using the Uzbek intelligence.

Mr Murray made clear his objection to the use of such information, saying "we are selling our souls for dross".

In another, sent to Mr Murray after a meeting in London in 2003, Sir Michael Wood, a Foreign Office legal adviser, made clear that intelligence gained through torture could be used by the British government.

Sir Michael said it was not an offence under the UN convention to "receive or possess information [gained] under torture" - but accepted that statements obtained by torture "would not be admissible as evidence".

Mr Murray says Sir Michael's note is crucial. "It is irrefutable evidence of the government's use of torture material and that I was attempting to stop it."

Mr Murray quit the Foreign Office earlier this year after being recalled from Uzbekistan, which is ruled by the brutal dictator Islam Karimov, who was re-elected unopposed in 2000.

He was pulled out after a memo he wrote to the Foreign Office complaining that MI6 was using information from the CIA which was originally obtained by torture in Uzbekistan became public.

Mr Murray, who was suspended on full pay in October last year and left the diplomatic service in February, said the Foreign Office had originally produced 20 pages of objections to parts of his book, most of which he agreed to change.

"Then on 23 December they said I had to remove these documents as well," he said. "It was phrased as a request, but they insisted this confidential detail should be deleted."

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said last night: "We are not going to comment on discussions we may or may not have had with Mr Murray."

He confirmed that a range of sanctions were available to the Foreign Office in the case of a former employee who published sensitive material.

The spokesman said: "These matters would be subject to procedures within the FCO, but we're not going to discuss these sort of procedures. That would be between ourselves and the individual."

Mr Murray, a Dundee University graduate formerly of South Queensferry, caused a diplomatic row after speaking out publicly against torture in the Central Asian country after he was appointed ambassador there in 2002.

He caused a stir by exposing brutality and murder in Uzbek jails, including the case of two men who were boiled to death.

A spokesman for Liberty, the human rights organisation, said they were extremely concerned about Mr Murray's revelations.

"[The government] seems to be trying to find ways in which it can use evidence gained by torture rather than devoting its time to making sure torture never happens," he said.

Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, said: "Generally speaking, government departments don't do themselves any favours by trying to suppress information which is already in the public domain."

US ally run by brutal ex-Soviet official

UZBEKISTAN has one of the worst human rights records in the world, according to campaigners.

Amnesty International has branded the Central Asian country's record on human rights as "dire".

The former Soviet republic, run by Islam Karimov, a brutal ex-Soviet official, has allied itself to the United States in the "war against terror".

Critics say the US and its allies have turned a blind eye to a campaign of state repression, torture and murder.

Amnesty said violations in Uzbekistan include "the detention of thousands of people on political or religious grounds, systematic torture, unfair trials, deaths in custody and persecution of religious minorities, gay men and human rights activists".

In 2004, Mr Karimov said that as many as 60 people had been executed in that year alone - but the real figure is believed to be much higher.

Hundreds are believed to have been massacred by Uzbek security forces after an uprising against Mr Karimov's repression in the town of Andijan in May.

Outspoken ambassador who never backs down

FORMER Uzbekistan ambassador Craig Murray shot to international prominence after memos highly critical of UK and US policy in the repressive former Soviet republic were leaked.

Mr Murray attacked the UK for turning a blind eye to torture in the Central Asian state and was eventually forced out of the Foreign Office.

The former South Queensferry man, 47, is a graduate of Dundee University, where he gained a first class honours degree in Modern History. He was president of the Dundee University Students' Association as well as member of the team which won University Challenge in 1983.

Mr Murray joined the Foreign Office in 1984 and worked in embassies and High Commissions in Nigeria, Poland and Africa. He served two stints in Whitehall, as head of the Cyprus section of the Foreign Office and head of the Maritime Section. He also led the Foreign Office team in the Embargo Surveillance Centre between 1990-91, responsible for analysing intelligence on Iraqi attempts to evade sanctions, particularly weapons procurement.

He was appointed Ambassador to Uzbekistan in 2002, where he worked until 2004. He was suspended on full pay until he quit the Foreign Office early this year. He stood against Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in Blackburn in the 2005 General Election to highlight human rights abuses.