UK suspends 'ethical' ambassador

Britain has suspended a diplomat withdrawn last week as ambassador to Uzbekistan after his harsh criticism of the country's human rights abuses.

    Craig Murray said Uzbekistan was torturing prisoners

    Craig Murray, 46, was removed after a memo was leaked in which he said Uzbekistan was torturing prisoners and passing their bogus confessions to the west to win military aid.

    Now Murray faces dismissal from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office after a round of media interviews in which he said his removal revealed the politicisation of Britain's supposedly neutral civil service.

    "I was phoned and told that I was being suspended for gross misconduct for talking to the media," he told the Mail On Sunday newspaper.

    "Now they have simply decided to sack me instead - it's cheaper. They will convene a tribunal of senior foreign office officials who will find me guilty. It's going to be a stitch up," he added.

    The foreign office said the diplomat was suspended on Saturday morning pending an investigation into his conduct.

    Last week the foreign office said Murray would be relocated after his recall from Tashkent for "operational reasons".

    Torture documented

    The foreign office says Britain never uses torture itself to get information, but that it would be irresponsible to rule out counter-terrorism intelligence obtained by other countries abroad if the information helps protect Britons. 

    Uzbek Muslims still live under an
    authoritarian government

    Although Uzbekistan denies it uses systematic torture, international human rights bodies estimate up to 7000 political prisoners languish in the country's jails, where deaths from torture are common.

    In April 2004, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a 319-page

    , Creating Enemies of the State: Religious Persecution in Uzbekistan, which details the torture of detainees.

    HRW said the government's targets are "independent Muslims" who do not use state-run mosques and schools, or who act beyond the strict controls set out by the government's laws on religion.

    The report is based on five years of research conducted throughout Uzbekistan, including interviews with some 200 victims and their relatives, as well as other witnesses, human rights defenders and government officials.

    Uzbekistan says it is the victim of "extremists" linked to Usama bin Ladin's al-Qaida group.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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