By ALAN COWELL
Published: December 31, 2005
LONDON, Dec. 30 - Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, has published documents on the Internet that he says prove that the British knowingly received information obtained through torture.
Mr. Murray, who was forced to quit the Foreign Office last year after publicly condemning the Uzbek authorities, criticized the British and American governments in reports from Uzbekistan that he posted on the site, www.craigmurray.org.uk.
On the site is a diplomatic cable Mr. Murray says he wrote, dated July 2004. It states that Britain received "intelligence obtained under torture from the Uzbek intelligence services, via the U.S."
"We should stop," the document goes on to say. "It is bad information anyway. Tortured dupes are forced to sign up to confessions showing what the Uzbek government wants the U.S. and UK to believe, that they and we are fighting the same war against terror."
Mr. Murray also said in one document that at a meeting in London on March 8, 2003, "I was told specifically that it was perfectly legal for us to obtain and to use intelligence from the Uzbek torture chambers."
He said that at the meeting, a British government legal adviser, Michael Wood, "gave his legal opinion that it was not illegal to obtain and to use intelligence acquired by torture."
"He said the only legal limitation on its use was that it could not be used in legal proceedings, under Article 15 of the U.N. Convention on Torture," Mr. Murray said.
In a telephone interview on Friday, Mr. Murray said he believed that the legal opinion meant that the information could not be used as evidence in court but could be used for intelligence purposes.
The disclosures, which repeat some earlier claims by Mr. Murray, play into a fierce debate in the United States and Europe over the transfer of terror suspects to countries that practice torture. Earlier this week, Britain and Greece denied allegations in Greece that their intelligence agents had interrogated 28 Pakistani suspects using torture after the July 7 bombings in London.
In a landmark ruling earlier this month, Britain's Law Lords, sitting as the country's highest court, said evidence obtained by torture, no matter by whom, was inadmissible in British courts.
A spokesman for the Foreign Office, who spoke in return for anonymity under department rules, declined to comment directly on Mr. Murray's claims. "There is nothing new here," he said.
He also declined to comment on British news reports that the Foreign Office had blocked publication of a nonfiction book by Mr. Murray, "Murder in Samarkand," until he edited out sensitive material.
In the telephone interview, Mr. Murray, who was ambassador from 2002 to 2004, said that the material on the Web site was authentic and that he was the source. He said it included the documents that the Foreign Office had wanted him to excise from his book.
The Foreign Office spokesman said Britain condemned the use of torture and did not practice it. But the spokesman said British intelligence agents routinely assessed the likely source of information they received and "took into account" the reliability of information that might have been extracted under torture from suspects in detention.
Mr. Murray assailed the human rights record of Uzbekistan at a time when, he said, the United States was playing down reports of human rights abuses there.
In a confidential letter he sent to the Foreign Office on Sept. 16, 2002, a summary said: "U.S. plays down human rights situation in Uzbekistan. A dangerous policy: increasing repression combined with poverty will promote Islamic terrorism."
Mr. Murray said American policy toward President Islam A. Karimov was dictated by the availability of strategic air bases. The State Department gave Uzbekistan a favorable human rights assessment to free up hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, Mr. Murray said.
A second letter, dated March 18, 2003, said in its summary: "As seen from Tashkent, U.S. policy is not much focused on democracy or freedom. It is about oil, gas and hegemony. In Uzbekistan the U.S. pursues those ends through supporting a ruthless dictatorship."
According to Mr. Murray, the letter said: "Last year the U.S. gave half a billion dollars in aid to Uzbekistan, about a quarter of it military aid. Bush and Powell repeatedly hail Karimov as a friend and ally. Yet this regime has at least seven thousand prisoners of conscience; it is a one-party state without freedom of speech, without freedom of media, without freedom of movement, without freedom of assembly, without freedom of religion. It practices, systematically, the most hideous tortures on thousands. Most of the population live in conditions precisely analogous with medieval serfdom."