The Judge RANTS!
An Equation Of Thuggery
Right, pay attention, class!
Consider the following equation:
a + b = c
If I now tell you that a stands for a crooked and thuggish
Uzbek oligarch, and b stands for a firm of shysters in London,
then what is c?
If you get the answer that c = censorship, award
yourself a gold star.
The oligarch is a man called Alisher Usmanov. His current claims to
attention are that a) he is bidding to take over Arsenal Football Club,
and b) he has just paid more than £20million for the art
collection of the late Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovitch.
However, there are other things for which the dear chap is known.
And he would very much prefer that as few people get to hear about them
Like his criminal convictions for fraud and tax-dodging, for
example; or his close alliance with the infamous dissident-boiling and
democrat-torturing Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov (a man so thoroughly
evil that even the Bush régime has been forced to distance
itself from their former ally), for another.
These facts (not merely allegations, note: the truth is out there)
have been revealed by a number of sources, not least of whom is Craig
Murray who, as former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, is in a better
position than most to comment.
And comment he has, on his own website and elsewhere. This has led
to Usmanov getting a high-fee firm of London libel lawyers called
Schillings to send threatening letters hither and yon (including to
websites run by Arsenal fans) ordering them (ordering them, if
you please!) to remove any material which they deem defamatory to their
Many have been forced by circumstances to comply with Schillings'
threat. Craig Murray, however, is made of sterner stuff. He contacted
Schillings to give them the address of his own lawyer, inviting them to
send any writ for defamation to them, so he could have his day in court.
Schillings, surprisingly for a firm who seemed to be so sure of
their ground, did not do this. Instead, they sent a threatening letter
to Fasthosts, the company which hosts Craig Murray's website, demanding
that the 'defamatory' material be removed.
To their eternal disgrace, Fasthosts complied immediately, and at
the time of writing, Craig Murray's website
remains missing, believed wiped.
I'll stress again: Schillings merely claim that the
material is defamatory; they have made no attempt to bring any
actual court cases against the people who have made the allegations
against Usmanov. That Fasthosts should have pulled the plug after
nothing more than a steaming pile of horse-shit from these shysters
indicates that a) Fasthosts are cowards who should not be allowed to
host anything more controversial than a knitting circle, and b) the
libel laws in this country are a complete and utter mess which need
urgent, radical reform.
If you go to Fasthosts' website (and I can't say I'd see the point
anymore), you'll find a press release from late July entitled "Fasthosts
keeps websites online amidst severe weather". I don't suppose
they'll now issue one called "Fasthosts pull websites on orders of
It isn't just Craig Murray's website which has gone, either. Other
political websites have been 'disappeared' by Fasthosts, seemingly on
the grounds that they were hosted on the same server and had the same
site administrator as Murray's (and Tim Ireland's Bloggerheads
site, which was also the subject of Usmanov/Schillings' attentions).
Among them is the home site of the Tory MP and London mayoral candidate
Boris Johnson. All gone.
Schillings had earlier sent the same sort of threats to a number of
major press and broadcast news organisations in the UK, threatening
them with action if they dared annoy their paymaster. To their immense
discredit, too, those thrusting organs of public enquiry all went limp,
which is why you will not see any coverage of Usmanov's criminality in
a British newspaper or on radio or television.
I'm delighted to report, however, that the 'blogosphere' (and a
rectal rocket for the person who dreamed that word up!) has reacted
with great speed, aplomb and vehemence. Usmanov quite clearly
understands no more about 'freedom' than he does about 'business
ethics', and calling in the briefs to engage in a dick-waving exercise
on his behalf is almost certain to leave him grabbed by the short
hairs. There is no way he would be able to take libel action, because
then all of the facts about his conduct would be dragged out in a court
case where he would be under oath to tell the truth.
Wedges can have very thin ends indeed. The way that bloggers from
all parts of the political/ideological spectrum are standing together
on this issue is, to say the least, encouraging.
This Judge is happy to join the effort, in whatever small way he
can. So, I can tell you that a copy of the main article which has got
Usmanov steaming can (for the time being at least) be found