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Craig Murray - former ambassador of Uzbekistan - silenced by Russian Billionaire? NOT.

by ghandi Mon Sep 24th, 2007 at 05:49:30 AM EST

 title=I have reposted this from Atlantic Free Press - and it's quite the tale - as once again Murray is testing Freedom of Speech in the UK (he took the Secrecy Act on last time). He has been shut down by litigation aimed at his hosting company (not himself) which resulted in termination of the account. Thousands of bloggers around the world have united in protest, buzzing not only about the situation but also reposting Murray's original post. This, of course is totally backfiring on Usmanov, his High Street legal team (Schillings) and Fasthost - the hosting company itself.

Plenty more after the jump...


Alisher Usmanov, potential Arsenal chairman, is a Vicious Thug, Criminal, Racketeer, Heroin Trafficker and Accused Rapist

by Craig Murray

[Editor's Note: Craig Murray, former United Kingdom Ambassador to Uzbekistan, author of the book, Murder in Samarkand: A British Ambassador's Controversial Defiance of Tyranny in the War on Terror, and contributor to Atlantic Free Press has recently had his personal blogging site - as well as a number of sites not owned by him and on the same server, taken down by his U.K. hosting company due to pressure from Schillings, a high-powered London Law firm, on behalf of Uzbeki Alisher Usmanov - the latest Russian billionaire to move to the United Kingdom. Usmanov's lawyers have gone after the host of Murray's site rather than Craig Murray himself. It seems they would prefer not to have Murray on the stand in a courtroom. Usmanov is allegedly livid -  as it has been leaked that he was not a political prisoner at all, but rather a hard-nosed criminal.

We at Atlantic Free Press feel that bloggers, hosting companies and Internet publishers cannot operate if they are bullied by rich plaintiffs.

Defamation law in the United Kingdom, asinine as it is - needs reform. Mistakes on blogs can easily be sorted -  particularly where they permit commenting which allows postings to be criticised, facts corrected, and arguments opposed. Rather than arm-twisting legal tactics.

However, Usmanov, the nouveau riche thug that he is, chose to throw money at his lawyers to shut down those who dare to legitimately criticise him and has now gotten his hands full and learned what the power of the Internet really is. THOUSANDS of blogger's have rallied to support Craig and those who have been taken out by Usmanov's high priced lawyers at Schillings (whose reputation, backed up on their website by the laughable case studies currently being mocked across the "blogosphere", is now at stake). Too bad they did not do enough research nor care to notice that other well-known political figures were on the same servers as Craig and were also pulled - including prospective candidate for London mayor Boris Johnson. Now it's now gone viral on the Net and is being picked up in the mainstream media.

Mr Eugenides sums it up:
If you can be silenced for calling a businessman a crook, then you can be silenced for calling a politician a crook, too. Then it’s everyone’s problem.
We have chosen to reprint Murray's original post in full below and posted an earlier article on the subject here.]
I thought I should make my views on Alisher Usmanov quite plain to you.

You are unlikely to see much plain talking on Usmanov elsewhere in the media because he has already used his billions and his lawyers in a pre-emptive strike. They have written to all major UK newspapers, including the latter:
“Mr Usmanov was imprisoned for various offences under the old Soviet regime. We wish to make it clear our client did not commit any of the offences with which he was charged.  He was fully pardoned after President Mikhail Gorbachev took office. All references to these matters have now been expunged from police records . . . Mr Usmanov does not have any criminal record.”
Let me make it quite clear that Alisher Usmanov is a criminal.

He was in no sense a political prisoner, but a gangster and racketeer who rightly did six years in jail. The lawyers cunningly evoke "Gorbachev", a name respected in the West, to make us think that justice prevailed. That is completely untrue. Usmanov's pardon was nothing to do with Gorbachev. It was achieved through the growing autonomy of another thug, President Karimov, at first President of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic and from 1991 President of Uzbekistan.

Karimov ordered the "Pardon" because of his alliance with Usmanov's mentor, Uzbek mafia boss and major international heroin overlord Gafur Rakimov. Far from being on Gorbachev's side, Karimov was one of the Politburo hardliners who had Gorbachev arrested in the attempted coup that was thwarted by Yeltsin standing on the tanks outside the White House. Usmanov is just a criminal whose gangster connections with one of the World's most corrupt regimes got him out of jail. He then plunged into the "privatisation" process at a time when gangster muscle was used to secure physical control of assets, and the alliance between the Russian Mafia and Russian security services was being formed. Usmanov has two key alliances. he is very close indeed to President Karimov, and especially to his daughter Gulnara. It was Usmanov who engineered the 2005 diplomatic reversal in which the United States was kicked out of its airbase in Uzbekistan and Gazprom took over the country's natural gas assets. Usmanov, as chairman of Gazprom Investholdings paid a bribe of $88 million to Gulnara Karimova to secure this.

This is set out on page 366 of Murder in Samarkand. Alisher Usmanov had risen to chair of Gazprom Investholdings because of his close personal friendship with Putin, He had accessed Putin through Putin's long time secretary and now chef de cabinet, Piotr Jastrzebski. Usmanov and Jastrzebski were roommates at college. Gazprom Investholdings is the group that handles Gazproms interests outside Russia, Usmanov's role is, in effect, to handle Gazprom's bribery and sleaze on the international arena, and the use of gas supply cuts as a threat to uncooperative satellite states.

Gazprom has also been the tool which Putin has used to attack internal democracy and close down the independent media in Russia. Gazprom has bought out — with the owners having no choice — the only independent national TV station and numerous rgional TV stations, several radio stations and two formerly independent national newspapers. These have been changed into slavish adulation of Putin. Usmanov helped accomplish this through Gazprom.

The major financial newspaper, Kommersant, he bought personally. He immediately replaced the editor-in-chief with a pro-Putin hack, and three months later the long-serving campaigning defence correspondent, Ivan Safronov, mysteriously fell to his death from a window. All this, both on Gazprom and the journalist's death, is set out in great detail here. Usmanov is also dogged by the widespread belief in Uzbekistan that he was guilty of a particularly atrocious rape, which was covered up and the victim and others in the know disappeared. The sad thing is that this is not particularly remarkable.

Rape by the powerful is an everyday hazard in Uzbekistan, again as outlined in Murder in Samarkand page 120. If anyone has more detail on the specific case involving Usmanov please add a comment. I reported back in 2002 or 2003 in an Ambassadorial top secret telegram to the Foreign Office that Usmanov was the most likely favoured successor of President Karimov as totalitarian leader of Uzbekistan.

I also outlined the Gazprom deal (before it happened) and the present by Usmanov to Putin (though in Jastrzebski's name) of half of Mapobank, a Russian commercial bank owned by Usmanov. I will never forget the priceless reply from our Embassy in Moscow. They said that they had never even heard of Alisher Usmanov, and that Jastrzebski was a jolly nice friend of the Ambassador who would never do anything crooked.

Sadly, I expect the football authorities will be as purblind. Football now is about nothing but money, and even Arsenal supporters — as tight-knit and homespun a football community as any — can be heard saying they don't care where the money comes from as long as they can compete with Chelsea. I fear that is very wrong. Letting as diseased a figure as Alisher Usmanov into your club can only do harm in the long term.

List of bloggers covering this story

Curious Hamster, Pickled Politics, Harry’s Place, Tim Worstall, Dizzy, Iain Dale, Ten Percent, Blairwatch, Earthquake Cove, Turbulent Cleric (who suggests dropping a line to the FA about Mr Usmanov), Mike Power, Jailhouse Lawyer, Suesam, Devil’s Kitchen, The Cartoonist, Falco, Casualty Monitor, Forever Expat, Arseblog, Drink-soaked Trots (and another), Pitch Invasion, Wonko’s World, Roll A Monkey, Caroline Hunt, Westminster Wisdom, Chris K, Anorak, Mediawatchwatch, Norfolk Blogger, Chris Paul, Indymedia (with a list of Craig Murray’s articles that are currently unavailable), Obsolete, Tom Watson, Cynical Chatter, Reactionary Snob, Mr Eugenides, Matthew Sinclair, The Select Society, Liberal England, Davblog, Peter Gasston Pitch Perfect, Adelaide Green Porridge Cafe, Lunartalks, Tygerland, The Crossed Pond, Our Kingdom, Big Daddy Merk, Daily Mail Watch, Graeme’s, Random Thoughts, Nosemonkey, Matt Wardman, Politics in the Zeros, Love and Garbage, The Huntsman, Conservative Party Reptile, Ellee Seymour, Sabretache, Not A Sheep, Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion, The People’s Republic Of Newport, Life, the Universe & Everything, Arsenal Transfer Rumour Mill, The Green Ribbon, Blood & Treasure, The Last Ditch, Areopagitica, Football in Finland, An Englishman’s Castle, Freeborn John, Eursoc, The Back Four, Rebellion Suck!, Ministry of Truth, ModernityBlog, Beau Bo D’Or, Scots and Independent, The Splund, Bill Cameron, Podnosh, Dodgeblogium, Moving Target, Serious Golmal, Goonerholic, The Spine, Zero Point Nine, Lenin’s Tomb, The Durruti Column, The Bristol Blogger, ArseNews, David Lindsay, Quaequam Blog!, On A Quiet Day…, Kathz’s Blog, England Expects, Theo Spark, Duncan Borrowman, Senn’s Blog, Katykins, Jewcy, Kevin Maguire, Stumbling and Mumbling, Famous for 15 megapixels, Ordovicius, Tom Morris, AOL Fanhouse, Doctor Vee, The Curmudgeonly, The Poor Mouth, 1820, Hangbitch, Crooked Timber, ArseNole, Identity Unknown, Liberty Alone, Amused Cynicism, Clairwil, The Lone Voice, Tampon Teabag, Unoriginalname38, Special/Blown It, The Remittance Man, 18 Doughty Street, Laban Tall, Martin Bright, Spy Blog The Exile, poons, Jangliss, Who Knows Where Thoughts Come From?, Imagined Community, A Pint of Unionist Lite, Poldraw, Disillusioned And Bored, Error Gorilla, Indigo Jo, Swiss Metablog, Kate Garnwen Truemors, Asn14, D-Notice, The Judge, Political Penguin, Miserable Old Fart, Jottings, fridgemagnet, Blah Blah Flowers, J. Arthur MacNumpty, Tony Hatfield, Grendel, Charlie Whitaker, Matt Buck, The Waendel Journal, Marginalized Action Dinosaur, SoccerLens, Toblog, John Brissenden East Lower, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Peter Black AM, Boing Boing, BLTP, Gunnerblog, LFB UK, Liberal Revolution, Wombles, Focus on Sodbury…, Follow The Money, Freedom and Whisky, Melting Man, PoliticalHackUK, Simon Says…, Daily EM, From The Barrel of a Gun, The Fourth Place, The Armchair News Blog, Journalist und Optimist, Bristol Indymedia, Dave Weeden, Up North John, Gizmonaut, Spin and Spinners, Marginalia, Arnique, Heather Yaxley, The Whiskey Priest, On The Beat, Paul Canning, Martin Stabe, Mat Bowles, Pigdogfucker, Rachel North, B3TA board, Naqniq, Yorkshire Ranter, The Home Of Football, UFO Breakfast Recipients, Moninski , Kerching, e-clectig, Mediocracy, Sicily Scene, Samizdata, I blog, they blog, weblog, Colcam, Some Random Thoughts, Bel is thinking, Vino S, Simply Jews, Atlantic Free Press, Registan, Filasteen, Britblog Roundup #136, Scientific Misconduct Blog, Adam Bowie, Duncan at Abcol, Camera Anguish, A Very British Dude, Whatever, Central News, Green Gathering, Leighton Cooke

Over the past weekend, bloggers - as a collective - have proven that they truly are players in the war of ideas. Now - underlying layers - which have been blanketed from the masses by corporate and government enslaved media can be disseminated by hundreds of thousands of online social networks that are only a few bytes removed from one another.

Media guru and electronical anthropologist Marshall McLuhan brilliantly predicted this in his 1967 work - "The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects". It's close to 40 year ago that McLuhan coined the term "the global village."
"...Ours is a brand-new world of allatonceness. 'Time' has ceased, 'space' has vanished. We now live in a global village...a simultaneous happening."... "Electric circuitry profoundly involves men with one another. Information pours upon us, instantaneously and continuously. As soon as information is acquired, it is very rapidly replaced by still newer information. Our electrically-configured world has forced us to move from the habit of data classification to the mode of pattern recognition. We can no longer build serially, block-by-block, step-by-step, because instant communication insures that all factors of the environment and of experience co-exist in a state of active interplay."

...Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than by the content of the communication.... The alphabet and print technology fostered and encouraged a fragmenting process, a process of specialism and of detachment. Electric technology fosters and encourages unification and involvement. It is impossible to understand social and cultural changes without a knowledge of the workings of media. Anxiety is, in great part, a result of trying to do do today's jobs with yesterday's tools, with yesterday's concepts.

from McLuhan's The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects (1967)

I confess I know nothing about the Uzbek mafia, but this has caught my eye:

He had accessed Putin through Putin's long time secretary and now chef de cabinet, Piotr Jastrzebski.
Unless I'm missing something, by "chef de cabinet" he understands the head of the President Administration. Well, a quick trip to the official Kremlin site, kremlin.ru, reveals that there indeed is a certain Sergey Jastrzembski, who is Putin's aide.
by Sargon on Mon Sep 24th, 2007 at 12:26:19 PM EST
Usmanov is definitely a scoundrel, but at the moment he is our scoundrel. So that dude, Craig Murray, has never heard that sometimes even the criminals can be quite handy? As in:

It was Usmanov who engineered the 2005 diplomatic reversal in which the United States was kicked out of its airbase in Uzbekistan and Gazprom took over the country's natural gas assets.

What a thug, indeed! Oversmarted truly democratic Dubya and Blair - and now how to bring democracy to them wild and unwashed asians and arabs without having new military bases in their countries and  their natural gas assets?  Now poor Uzbeks will have to wait for getting Iraqy-style democracy for ages!

And, of course, Sargon is right. There's no traces of any Piotr Jastrzebski. Sergey Jastrzhembski, however, did study with Usmanov at Moscow State Institute for International Relations (the top level diplomatic university) but when on earth was a Brit, especially a British diplomat, able to get anything right?

by lana on Mon Sep 24th, 2007 at 02:22:29 PM EST
Not a leg to stand on - Schillings confirm they won't sue Craig Murray In a tacit admission of the validity of his claims, Schillings, the lawyers for Alisher Usmanov have stated that they will not be taking legal action against former-ambassador Craig Murray. This is despite their heavy-handed, and frankly inept, attempts to close down discussions on the internet about Murray's claims.

In a futher blow to Schillings, the mainstream media is now starting to catch up with the blogs - an excerpt from the Guardian is posted below.
"Controversy over Usmanov's record has surfaced since he paid Arsenal's former vice-chairman David Dein 75m for a 14.5% stake last month, then rapidly increased his shareholding to 21%. In 1980 he was convicted of offences reported to include fraud, corruption and theft of state property and served six years in prison, but after the collapse of the Soviet Union he insisted the charges had been politically motivated and that he had since been formally pardoned by the Russian government. That version of events has been contested by Craig Murray, the British ambassador in Uzbekistan from 2002 to 2004.

Murray spoke out then about alleged corruption and state-sponsored brutality and he remains a trenchant critic of the former Soviet republic. After the purchase of Dein's stake he drew attention to Usmanov's convictions on his blog and published further allegations, which Usmanov's lawyers, Schillings, said were defamatory and insisted be taken down by the internet server Fasthosts. Murray's whole blog has now been removed.

Laura Tyler, of Schillings, said they did not intend to sue Murray directly because they did not want to give him a platform to express his views. Murray says he stands by the allegations, although he has no documentary evidence. "I was the ambassador in Uzbekistan. Usmanov is the country's most prominent businessman and it was my job to know about him."

Update: Parliamentary privilege appears to open the door for the mainstream media as Craig Murray allegations are Repeated By Tom WiseMEP

Atlantic Free Press
by ghandi (expatforums@gmail.com) on Wed Sep 26th, 2007 at 11:46:54 AM EST

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