Lady Dorrian and her two fellow High Court judges wanted to “take longer to reach a decision in this difficult and anxious matter.” So the ambassador-turned-rebel blogger Craig Murray is spending this weekend with his wife Nadira fearing that, on Tuesday, he will be jailed and separated from their 11-year-old son and two-month old baby boy for posting articles about the Alex Salmond trial which could have identified the former first minister’s female accusers. Quite a difficult and anxious matter for any 62-year-old man, even without the health problems Mr Murray suffers from.
At the time of posting this I don’t know what sentence will be passed down on him. I don’t want to speculate on that nor to opine on whether up to a dozen journalists in the legacy media could equally justifiably be in the dock for aiding the ‘jigsaw identification’ of those women. Not out of fear that I too might be found in Contempt of Court. Having worked as a legally compliant senior newspaper editor and taught media law at a number of leading journalism schools across these islands, I am pretty confident I could pronounce on these matters without risk of prosecution. I desist from doing so only because this case has sparked other thoughts in my mind which I am more moved to share at this point.
One of the submissions from Scotland’s most senior advocate Roddy Dunlop QC that the three judges wanted more time to consider relate to the former diplomat’s state of health. Mr Murray asked the media not to divulge details of his physical medical conditions and I will respect that wish (unlike several Scottish newspapers have done). What doesn’t bother him is anybody discussing the fact that he suffers from bipolar disorder. A condition which, as well being debilitating, can lead to reckless and self-destructive behaviour.
There will be those who think Mr Murray was exhibiting such symptoms when he went into online overdrive to expose what he saw as a dark political conspiracy to destroy Scotland’s former FM, even to the point of putting him in prison. Others might think that a ‘messiah complex’ led the convicted blogger to see himself as Mr Salmond’s salvation. If so, they should know that a state of mind in which an individual believes that they are responsible for saving or assisting others is not a clinical term nor diagnosable disorder. It could instead be a moral duty to which more of us should answer the call. Leading clinical psychologists believe that we need to start questioning why so many remain passive in the face of awful injustices. Professor Peter Kinderman, based at Liverpool University, has even observed of his own profession:
Some of us may have offered some gentle words on the use of torture in the so-called ‘war on terror’, but many clinical psychologists may well still be silent, even colluding.
Whatever else he may have done, Craig Murray could never be found guilty of such collusion. The reason he is a former diplomat is because he offered far from gentle words on torture when he was Britain’s kilt-wearing ambassador to Uzbekistan between 2002 and 2004. In fact, he turned a whistleblower and took a very public stand against the ruling regime’s medievally barbaric human rights record. President Islam Karimov liked to (literally) boil alive political opponents and took umbrage at an uppity British envoy denouncing this practice. The Foreign Office did not approve of such conduct either – the censure not the torture – so Craig Murray quickly ceased to be our man in Tashkent. His one and only ambassadorship ended abruptly and acrimoniously, with the Daily Mail being primed by FCO spindoctors to accuse him of drunkenness and sexual debauchery. Far from ever denying that he had a weakness for whisky and wild young women, the donnish diplomat and his Uzbek partner (a former lap-dancer, drugs mule and teacher) later celebrated their very unconventional relationship in a West End play The British Ambassador’s Belly Dancer (which also almost became a movie). Before his return to London, he vented his fury at what he called the “conspiracy of silence” upheld by his fellow diplomats.
Sanctimonious asshole? No doubt that is one of the highly undiplomatic ways in which Craig Murray was described by other ambassadors in Uzbekistan, as well as by almost all his colleagues back in Whitehall. But it is not how he would have been sneeringly dismissed, I suspect, by one of the true prophets of the twentieth century. We’ve all heard of Martin Luther King Jnr’s ‘I have a Dream’ speech, delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on August 28, 1963. Far fewer know of an address he gave a few months later to a much smaller gathering. Yet it conveyed a message no less essential than his most celebrated address. On December 18, 1963 MLK spoke at Western Michigan University, where he focused on the term ‘Maladjusted’, a term gaining wide usage in the field of psychology. Here are a few relevant excerpts from that address:
In order to have real adjustment within our personalities, we all want the well‐adjusted life in order to avoid neurosis, schizophrenic personalities. But I say to you, my friends, as I move to my conclusion, there are certain things in our nation and in the world, (to) which I am proud to be maladjusted, and (to) which I hope all men of goodwill will be maladjusted…
I’m about convinced now that there is need for a new organization in our world. The International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment – men and women who will be as maladjusted as the prophet Amos… As maladjusted as Abraham Lincoln who had the vision to see that this nation would not survive half-slave and half-free…
Through such maladjustment, I believe that we will be able to emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man’s inhumanity to man into the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice.
As I type these words, I do not know if Craig Murray will be imprisoned for up to two years on Tuesday or have a fine imposed on him, as his defence counsel pleaded for on his behalf at Thursday’s proceedings. I hope his sentence will be the most lenient possible, not only for his sake but that of his partner and their young children. If he ends up doing some time in Her Majesty’s Prison Edinburgh, I do know one thing for sure: Her Majesty’s former Ambassador to Uzbekistan deserves to be made an honorary fellow of the International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment.
On Tuesday 11 May Craig Murray was sentenced to eight months in prison but given three weeks leave to appeal. You can read my response to that here: