Fair trials in the UK courts? Anyone?

This art­icle in today’s Guard­ian about the ongo­ing reper­cus­sions of the Mark Kennedy under­cover cop scan­dal earlier this year piqued my interest.

Mark_KennedyIt appears that the Crown Pro­sec­u­tion Ser­vice (CPS) has sup­pressed key evid­ence about the all-too-apparent inno­cence of envir­on­mental pro­test­ers in the run-up to their tri­als.  In this case Mark Kennedy aka Stone, the police­man who for years infilt­rated protest groups across Europe, had cov­ertly recor­ded con­ver­sa­tions dur­ing the plan­ning ses­sions to break into Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station.

Kennedy offered to give evid­ence to prove that the unit he worked for at the time, the private and unac­count­able ACPO-run National Pub­lic Order Invest­ig­a­tions Unit (NPOIU), had witheld this key evid­ence.  It now appears that the police are claim­ing that they passed all the inform­a­tion on to the CPS, which then seems to have neg­lected  to hand it over to the pro­test­ers’ defence lawyers.

Keir_StarmerWhich makes it even more fas­cin­at­ing that in April this year the Dir­ector of Pub­lic Pro­sec­u­tions, fam­ous civil liber­ties QC Keir Starmer no less, took the unpre­ced­en­ted step of encour­aging those same pro­test­ers to appeal against their con­vic­tions because of poten­tial “police” cover-ups.

It’s just amaz­ing, isn’t it, that when vital inform­a­tion can be kept safely under wraps these doughty crime-fighting agen­cies present a united front to the world?  But once someone shines a light into the slith­ery dark corners, they all scramble to avoid blame and leak against each other?

And yet this case is just the tip of a titanic legal ice­berg, where for years the police and the CPS have been in cahoots to cover up many cases of, at best, mis­com­mu­nic­a­tion, and at worst out­right lies about incom­pet­ence and poten­tially crim­inal activity.

Ian_TomlinsonA couple of months ago George Mon­biot provided an excel­lent sum­mary of recent “mis­state­ments” (a won­der­fully euphemistic neo­lo­gism) by the police over the last few years, includ­ing such blatant cases as the death of Ian Tom­lin­son dur­ing the Lon­don G20 protests two years ago, the ongo­ing News of the World phone hack­ing case, and the counter-terrorism style exe­cu­tion, sorry, shoot­ing of the entirely inno­cent Jean Charles de Menezes, to name but a few.

Mon­biot also dwelt at length on the appalling case of Michael Doherty, a con­cerned father who dis­covered that his 13 year-old daugh­ter was appar­ently being groomed by a pae­do­phile over the inter­net.  He took his con­cerns to the police, who brushed the issue aside.  When Doherty tried to push for a more informed and pro­act­ive response, he was the one who was snatched from his house in an early morn­ing raid and ended up in court, accused of abus­ive and angry phone calls to the sta­tion in a sworn state­ment by a mem­ber of the rel­ev­ant police force, sorry, ser­vice.

And that would have been that — he would have appar­ently been bang to rights on the word of a police sec­ret­ary — apart from the fact he had recor­ded all his phone calls to the police and kept metic­u­lous notes on the pro­gress of the case.  Only this evid­ence led to his right­ful acquittal.

As Mon­biot rightly con­cludes, “justice is impossible if we can­not trust police forces to tell the truth”.

It appears that the notion of “cit­izen journ­al­ists” is just sooo 2006.  Now we all need to be not only journ­al­ists but also “cit­izen law­yers”, just in case we have to defend ourselves against poten­tial police lies.  Yet these are the very organ­isa­tions that are paid from the pub­lic purse to pro­tect civil soci­ety.  Is it any won­der that so many people have a grow­ing dis­trust of them and con­cerns about an encroach­ing, Stasi-like, police state?

This is all part of engrained, top-down Brit­ish cul­ture of secrecy that allows the amorph­ous “secur­ity ser­vices” to think they can get away with any­thing and everything if they make a force­ful enough pub­lic state­ment: black is white, tor­ture is “enhanced inter­rog­a­tion”, and war is peace (or at least a “peace­keep­ing” mis­sion in Libya.…).  Espe­cially if there is no mean­ing­ful over­sight.  We have entered the Orwellian world of NewSpeak.

But plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.  This all happened in the 1970s and 80s with the Irish com­munity, and also in the 1990s with the ter­rible mis­car­riage of justice around the Israeli embassy bomb­ing in 1994.  If you have the time, please do read the detailed case here: Down­load Israeli_Embassy_Case

We need to remem­ber our history.

The Israeli Embassy Two — a gross miscarriage of justice

Samar_Alami Jawad_Botmeh Over the last few years there have been a num­ber of egre­gious cases of police and state cover-ups in the UK around the deaths and wrong­ful pro­sec­u­tions of inno­cent people.

This brings to my mind the appalling mis­car­riage of justice that occurred in the 1990s when two Palestinian stu­dents, a young woman called Samar Alami and a young man called Jawad Bot­meh, were both wrong­fully con­victed of con­spir­acy to bomb the Israeli embassy in Lon­don in July 1994. 

In this case a highly soph­ist­ic­ated car bomb as det­on­ated out­side the embassy.  Thank­fully nobody was killed, but a num­ber of people suffered minor injur­ies.   Alami and Bot­meh had con­nec­tions to Palestinian polit­ical sup­port groups based in Lon­don at the time, many of whom were roun­ded up dur­ing the invest­ig­a­tion.  Bot­meh had naively helped out a shad­owy and never-identified fig­ure called Reda Moghr­abi, who asked for assist­ance in buy­ing a second-hand car at auc­tion.  This was the car that was used in the explosion.

Why is this case an example of estab­lish­ment cover-up?  Well,  this was one of the cases that former MI5 officer David Shayler blew the whistle on dur­ing the 1990s.  He revealed the exist­ence of two rel­ev­ant doc­u­ments that should have been dis­closed to the defence but, for some unac­count­able reason, were not.

The first, an agent report from a cred­ible and trus­ted source, poin­ted to a non-Palestinian group plan­ning the attack before it had even occurred.  This report was not acted upon by the MI5 officer respons­ible, who then tried to cover up her mis­take.  She was caught out, and there was a much-discussed internal inquiry into the mat­ter within MI5’s G Branch (inter­na­tional ter­ror­ism) in late 1994.

But there was another doc­u­ment — one writ­ten by G9/1, the senior MI5 officer who over­saw the post-incident invest­ig­a­tion.  His view was that Mossad, the external Israeli intel­li­gence agency, had car­ried out a con­trolled explo­sion out­side its own embassy (the shad­owy and uniden­ti­fied Reda Moghr­abi being the poten­tially cru­cial miss­ing link) in order to acquire the long-demanded addi­tional secur­ity pro­tec­tion around Israeli interests in the UK, and also to shat­ter the Palestinian sup­port net­works in Lon­don — a long-term object­ive of Mossad.

The gov­ern­ment at the time tried to dis­miss these dis­clos­ures.  How­ever, the much-missed Private Eye invest­ig­at­ive   journ­al­ist, Paul Foot, and the indefatig­able law­yer, Gareth Peirce, fol­lowed them up and pur­sued them tire­lessly through the media and the courts

And guess what?  It turns out that these two key doc­u­ments had indeed not been dis­closed to the legal defence team dur­ing the trial of Alami and Bot­meh — and not just by the hap­less spooks.  It emerged dur­ing the appeal hear­ing that no fewer than seven people from a vari­ety of police and intel­li­gence organ­isa­tions had failed to dis­close the rel­ev­ant doc­u­ment­a­tion to the defence.  This can­not be explained away as an inno­cent over­sight, a cock-up — it bears all the hall­marks of a delib­er­ate, sys­temic estab­lish­ment cover-up.

All this rep­res­en­ted, at the very least, a need for a retrial but also a pos­sible gross mis­car­riage of justice.  And yet, while acknow­ledging that these doc­u­ments did indeed exist dur­ing the appeal hear­ing and bey­ond, the presid­ing m’luds decided to ignore all case law and European law and let those two inno­cents rot in prison.  After all, it would be ter­ribly embar­rass­ing to vin­dic­ate the actions of an intel­li­gence whis­tleblower, wouldn’t it?

As a res­ult, the poor pawns in this sick estab­lish­ment game, Jawad Bot­meh and Samar Alami, ended up serving their full sen­tences, des­pite the over­whelm­ing body of evid­ence prov­ing their inno­cence, and were finally released in 2008 and 2009 respectively.

For any­one inter­ested in the detailed hor­ror story behind this flag­rant mis­car­riage of justice, here is the rel­ev­ant chapter from my long-defunct book: Down­load The_Israeli_Embassy_Case