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Home » Culture and History, Uzbekistan

Murder in Samarkand… Confiscated

Written by on Monday, 21 August 2006
Culture and History, Uzbekistan
50 Comments

The increased airport security is an ordeal. I was fine with that and planned in enough time to reach my easyjet flight from London-Luton to Berlin. Long queues, delayed departures, all that was pretty much calculated.

Being a little tired from an overdose of house-moving and tidying, I forgot to remove a cream from my hand luggage, the sight of which made the security staff put me in the extra-thorough check line. Everything was carefully inspected, including my camera, laptop – and my books.

The first one, a German novel, seemed alright. But the second, Murder in Samarkand, Craig Murray’s account of his time as the UK ambassador to Uzbekistan aroused some suspicion:

“Is that about terrorism?”, asked the lady that examined my onboard luggage. “Humm, well, it contains mentions of that, but it’s about your former ambassador to Uzbekistan and more about diplomacy”, I replied politely. “Does it have al-Qaida in it?” I looked a bit confused. “What?” – “Well, I have to check this with my manager, the rest of your stuff is fine, though.”

The manager then came after a minute or two. “Hello Sir, can you tell me about this book?” “Sure, it is about Craig Murray, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan.” “Where, if I may ask, did you buy this book?” – “Well, it is available at any Waterstones here in Britain. I just bought my copy in the Angel branch yesterday.”

“I am afraid you cannot take this onboard, Sir.” You must be kidding me. I just spent 20 pounds on a book that, despite arousing some controversy in the UK, should not be banned onboard a flight to Germany. I understand that the terror plot (which coincidentally seems to have an Uzbek dimension) makes for some overwrought nerves.

But to ban a book widely available in book stores in the UK is just a joke. Now, cash-strapped, I have to wait for the paperback edition to be published. Already late for the flight and raging in front of the calm airport security manager, I must have overheard that they can – in exceptional cases – post confiscated material to a UK address. I recalled that onboard the plane…

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50 Comments »

  • Nick says:

    Well, I still have my copy – but I’m supposed to be posting it to someone abroad. Can I rely on it reaching its destination? eek! This is just getting silly …

    Reply

  • Laurence says:

    Funny, I think Murray was quoted by Andrew Sullivan as saying that the airport security scare was something sexed up by Bush and Blair for political purposes. Maybe this is some sort of “push-back”?

    Reply

  • James says:

    Wow, that is so ridiculous that it beggars belief. I had no idea things were so bad over there. You should report that to some sort of civil rights group. What’s next, burning them?

    “Does it have al-Qaida in it?�

    What? Literally any book on current events mentions al-Qaida, including those you would be able to buy in the airport.

    Unbelievable.

    Reply

  • Jessica says:

    Ben, why don’t you just email Craig Murray, tell him your ordeal, and ask him if he’ll send you another copy from his personal stash? You all should have his email address from the past comments he’s left on this blog…

    Plus, he’s probably running short of atrocities to publicly rant about, and this could provide him with some new ammo:)

    Reply

  • Craig Murray says:

    Ahead of you on that one, Jessica, and ranting away already.

    Of course I’ll send Ben a replacement. Meantime I have lawyers looking at whether I can take the government to court over this under human rights legislation.

    Craig

    Reply

  • Jessica says:

    Although I’m less surprised after seeing Craig’s recent op-ed. Not an excuse, but perhaps an explanation.

    Reply

  • Nathan Hamm says:

    That’s absolutely ridiculous. I’ll file it away as another reason to avoid going through London as I’m looking for tickets to Dehli.

    Craig, any word on a release over here in the states?

    Reply

  • James says:

    Amazon has it coming out in February in paperback.

    Reply

  • Nathan Lam says:

    This is exactly why Master Yoda says that fear eventually leads to the dark side

    Reply

  • Brian says:

    Wow that is really stupid. They should have burned it in a big bonfire along with all the other banned books just for effect.

    Reply

  • Perhaps you should nominate this incident for Privacy International‘s
    2006 Stupid Security Awards competition.

    Reply

  • Ben says:

    Thanks for the offer Craig, I’ll drop you an Email.

    Re his op-ed serving as an explanation: I doubt that the airport security manager had a clue about what’s going on in the brawl between HM Diplomatic Service and him.

    The whole story is just plain ridiculous as any newspaper these days writes about terror and how people were trying to build bombs from pages 1-64. But you cannot ban them on flights.

    By the way, BBC Uzbek interviewed me on that, and the story was aired yesterday.

    Reply

  • [...] Until now. “Is that about terrorism?â€?, asked the lady that examined my onboard luggage. “Humm, well, it contains mentions of that, but it’s about your former ambassador to Uzbekistan and more about diplomacyâ€?, I replied politely. “Does it have al-Qaida in it?â€? I looked a bit confused. “What?â€? – “Well, I have to check this with my manager, the rest of your stuff is fine, though.â€? [...]

  • Craig Murray says:

    Nathan,

    Still no US publishing deal yet. Michael Winterbottom has sold the film rights on to a Hollywood studio (though he will still be the director), and my US agent wants to wait until the studio announce the project before auctioning the rights.

    Meanwhile you can buy it from amazon.co.uk for US delivery (it’s not on amazon.com).

    I am attending the CESS conference in Ann Arbor end September and hope to bring a lot of copies with me to sell there (if I can get the book on a plane).

    Craig

    Reply

  • Nick says:

    It’s ‘Hauptmann von Köpenick’ syndrome. Give those ignorant drones two rules and the next thing you know we have a police state.

    Reply

  • Craig Murray says:

    Nathan,

    I just found that if you go to Amazon.ca, search on Murder in Samarkand, select the hardback, the click on the “used and new” from other suppliers, you get a firm that has a stock in New Jersey and can deliver it to you in 4 to 5 days.

    Craig

    Reply

  • Nick says:

    It should be noted that the above ‘Nick’ is not me – but I’m impressed by the Prussian historical reference!

    Reply

  • Laurence says:

    Since Craig Murray is posting comments, I wonder if he stills stands by these statements in his oped:

    None of the alleged terrorists had made a bomb. None had bought a plane ticket. Many did not have passports. It could be pretty difficult to convince a jury that these individuals were about to go through with suicide bombings, whatever they bragged about on the net.

    What is more, many of those arrested had been under surveillance for more than a year – like thousands of other British Muslims. And not just Muslims. Like me. Nothing from that surveillance had indicated the need for early arrests.

    Then an interrogation in Pakistan revealed this amazing plot to blow up multiple planes. Of course, the interrogators of the Pakistani dictator have ways of making people sing like canaries. As I witnessed in Uzbekistan, you can get the most extraordinary information from people desperate to stop or avert torture. What you don’t get is the truth.

    We also have the extraordinary question of Bush and Blair discussing arrests the weekend before they were made. Why? Both in domestic trouble, they longed for a chance to change the story. The intelligence from Pakistan, however dodgy, gave them a chance. Comparisons with 9/11 were all over front pages.

    And we have the appalling political propaganda of John Reid, the home secretary, warning us all in advance of the evil that threatens us and complaining that some people “don’t get” why we have to abandon traditional liberties.

    We will now never know if any of those arrested would have gone on to make a bomb or buy a plane ticket. Most do not fit the “loner” profile you would expect. As they were all under surveillance, and on airport watch lists, there could have been little danger in letting them proceed closer to maturity: that is what we would have done with the IRA.

    In all of this, the one thing of which I am certain is that the timing is deeply political. This is more propaganda than plot. More than 1,000 British Muslims have been arrested under anti-terrorist legislation, but only 12% have been charged. That is harassment on an appalling scale. Of those charged, 80% were acquitted. Most of the few convictions – just over 2% of arrests – are nothing to do with terrorism, but some minor offence the police happened upon while trawling through the lives they have wrecked.

    Reply

  • Laurence says:

    BTW this is from the latest report from Reuters:

    Prosecutors announced on Monday they were charging 11 people after police found bomb-making equipment, suicide notes and “martyrdom videos”.

    Reply

  • Craig Murray says:

    Laurence,

    yes, I still found by those statements. Were all those charged to be convicted, that would raise the percentage of Muslims arrested under anti-terror laws to be convicted from 2% to 3%.

    But let’s wait until they are convicted. I note what the police claim to have found. But in the famous Muslim ricin plot, they made parallel claims – in particular to have found “significant quantities” of ricin in a flat. When tested in court that turned out to be the atmospheric norm. In that trial, everyone was eventually acquitted of conspiracy.

    So let’s wait until the defence have a chance to state their case in court before you pre-judge this. They might be guilty. They might be innocent. But I strongly suspect we will find this was not “Imminent” nor “bigger than 9/11″.

    Under the UK laws of evidence – different to the US – there will be np public discussion of either the defence or prosecution evidence until after the trial, so we may have to wait years.

    Reply

  • Laurence says:

    Is this the case to which you refer:

    An al-Qaeda suspect who stabbed to death a policeman has been jailed for 17 years for plotting to spread ricin and other poisons on the UK’s streets.

    Kamel Bourgass, 31, is already serving a life term after being convicted of murdering Detective Constable Stephen Oake during a 2003 raid in Manchester.

    Four other men were cleared last week of taking part in a conspiracy. A second trial has been abandoned.

    Anti-terror chief Peter Clarke said a “real and deadly threat” was averted.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4433709.stm

    Reply

  • Craig Murray says:

    Laurence,

    Yes, that’s it. The “plot” led to massive media hysteria in this country similar to the current episode. It was hyped up by the police, who claimed int hose standard leaks to the press from “a polce source” to have found ricin and a plan to poison us all by sabotaging London’s water supply. They arrested a large number of Muslims.

    Sadly, in the course of a night-time raid on a flat, a deranged illegal immigrant attacked and fatally stabbed a policeman.

    There were a large number of arrests, again rather like the present case. There were two trials for conspiracy. In the first, the jury quickly found four men not guilty of conspiracy after it emerged that the much publicised police claims to have discovered ricin were completely untrue, – the amount of ricin found was the atmospheric norm – and there was no credible evidence linking the accused to al-Qaida or any plot. A second conspiracy trial was abandoned. All the innocent men had been in prison for a long period awaiting trial. Their acquittal received almost no publcity – this tiny BBC article being an example of that. Their arrest had received the same level of lurid front page treatment as we are seeing again now.

    The illegal immigrant who stabbed the policeman was found guilty of murder. He was also found guilty of planning to spread ricin and other poisons – acting alone. As he didn’t actually have any ricin or other poisons, this was not a huge threat. I accept he may have hoped to do this, although as he had just killed a policeman the jurywould have convicted him of anything. He did have a pamphlet on how to make ricin from castor oil and kidney beans.

    Peter Clark – the same man who gave the press conference on the evidence against the current terrorist suspects – was whistling in the dark when he said “a real and deadly threat was averted” – covering up the fact that all but one of the many accused had just been acquitted.

    There has, incidentally, never been a succesful mass poisoning with ricin and, although effective as an individual posion if you can get someone to ingest it, apparently the whole idea of poisoning the water supply with it is simply an unworkable fantasy anyway.

    The terrible thing about the ricin plot was the death of the policeman. A major terrorist plot it wasn”t.

    The parallel would be if, in a couple of years time, all of the accused in this case were to be acquitted except one, who didn’t actually have any bomb but did have a pamphlet on how to build one. I am not saying that will be the outcome in the present case. I am just trying to point out that the “ricin case” media hysteria should warn us against taking these “terror plot” scares entirely at face value.

    If you want to continue the discussion perhaps we should move over to my blog, as this is pretty off subject for Eurasia.

    Reply

  • Shohruh says:

    Perhaps you have seen that already:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/diary/story/0,,1855347,00.html

    Craig, check this site maybe later tomorrow, I am translating some of the articles from Uzbek blog, called “What does Karimov want?”

    Reply

  • James says:

    Which is the agency/gov.dept. responsible for the security operations? Is it the BAA? We should all write stinking letters in.

    Reply

  • [...] Craig Murray confiscated Friday, 25th Aug 2006 This is both mad and very scary: Craig Murray’s Murder in Samarkand confiscated on a flight (from the NewEurasia blog, via Splinters): [...]

  • James says:

    I should note, as Nick did, that the James above (“Which is the agency”…) is not the one of neweurasia.

    Commenters, if you have the same name as one of the people already commenting, it wouldn’t hurt to note that you are a different person…

    Reply

  • ziz says:

    “There has, incidentally, never been a succesful mass poisoning with ricin and, although effective as an individual posion if you can get someone to ingest it,…”

    There is ONLY ONE RECORDED DEATH from ricin – the celebrated ultra pure substance embedded in an inert metal pellet injected by an elaborate hypodermic syringe concealed as an umbrella of a Bulgarian spy / defector called Markov.

    An oncologist tried unsuccesfully to feed it to her husband (she could obtain pure medical supplies because it has been used in cancer treatment – unsuccessfully. He survived so she burnt the unfauthfuly womanising bastard toi death in his house, She rots in prison in the US yet and you can read a book about it.

    Ricin is a complex and rather delicate protein not unlike insulin and cannot be digested – at least by humans. It is difficult and amost impossible to kill one person never mind mass murder anybody with it.

    Please do not take this e-mail on board an aircraft with you.

    PS. I brought a copy of Craig’s book to the US – but that was on Aug 8th. Phew!!

    PPS. what happens to such contraband – is it destroyed – sold off, taken home out of curiosity ? I think we should be told.

    PPPPS will Venceremos! The Speeches and Writings of Che Guevara, 1968 (ed. by John Gerassi) which I intend to return with to UK be suitable on board reading ?

    Reply

  • Pamela says:

    Traveling back and forth from Paris, London and Texas I frequently take such books to read as: Rogue State, The Great Unravelling and Steal This Vote. To make matters worse, I always carry lotion and lip gloss. Since I am a 59 year old grandmother with silver hair, I wonder if I will be detained as was Ben. Interesting!!!

    Pamela

    Reply

  • Ian says:

    On a positive note, I hadn’t realised that Craig Murray had published a book until a friend forwarded this link to me.
    So it’s resulted in at least one more book sale :)

    Reply

  • [...] uzbekistan.neweurasia.net » Murder in Samarkand… Confiscated complete insanity in the war on terror and, apparently, books. (tags: books terrorism news politics) [...]

  • Gilly Davison says:

    I also had Murder in Samarkand Confiscated on a trip to New York, I am an actress and I was reading the book for research, I have to say I was appalled, Craig if you read this message, I would love to attend the CESS conference in Ann Arbor, I will hold the books for you! It would be great if would get in touch with me. My agents details: Niki Winterson @ Global Artists, London.

    Reply

  • [...] Murder in Samarkand ConfiscatedNeweurasia.net, Europe - Aug 21, 2006… But to ban a book widely available in book stores in the UK is just a joke. Now, cash-strapped, I have to wait for the paperback edition to be published. … [...]

  • [...] Oddly, the Guardian article mentions that Paarman wrote about the incident on his blog- neweurasia. I’ve just had a quick look, and couldn’t find anything, but Ben’s a reputable guy, so I’m sure the article’s around there somewhere. (Update 9/11/06: I’ve just found Ben’s blog post, over on neweurasia’s Uzbekistan blog.  Now why on earth didn’t I think of looking there in the first place?). Whatever, seizing books from passengers is an alarming precedent, which does absolutely nothing to make the skies a safer place. The practice deserves to be exposed and ended as soon as possible. [...]

  • [...] But first I should note that, according to Mr. Murray, there are currently no plans to release the book in the States. Luckily, American readers can buy it on the UK Amazon site, although I wouldn’t recommend it as in-flight reading. [...]

  • Ben says:

    Thanks Craig for sending the copy! Much appreciated.

    Reply

  • Chucky says:

    Someone please scan this book and post it as a PDF to bittorrent sites, this is an extremely vital book and it is not getting distributed. ITs almost impossible to get it at bookstores in the US.

    Reply

  • Fred G. says:

    if this is what happened … things are bad!!

    Reply

  • Craig Murray says:

    Sorry about the book availability in the States – it’s a big problem. The best way is still probably to order from amazon.co.uk – lots of people have done this successfully. I am told it should be available from Amazon Canada in the next week or two.

    Reply

    Dildora Reply:

    @Craig Murray,
    Dear Craig,

    A friend and i orgeed the book from amazon.com and it was delievered to us to UAE after 5 days.
    I am an Uzbekk citizen.
    I have been living in the UAE for 5 years now. Not surprisingly, have never heard about those things described in your book when i was living in Uzb hugely thanks to media in Uzb- you know how it works, we dont see anything other that cotton all year round on Uzbek Channels.

    Thank you very much for the truth! and the truth about the coward naton- the police who rapes his own nation; a neighbour that destroys the garden of his neigbour, and the worst part is that we still praise and worship the dictator who leveled the country to the ground- a country that once was the pillar of Islamic development of the East! Shame on us!

    I sincerely apologise on behalf of entire nation (if i ever can) for all that was caused to you while in Uzb.

    D,

    Reply

  • Taking Aim says:

    Terrorism books being confiscated at British airports…

    The terrorist threat to air travel should be taken seriously – but probably not this seriously:
    Ben Paarman turned up at Luton airport for a flight to Berlin. Having forgotten to remove toiletries from his hand luggage, he was hauled over for further i…

  • NickB says:

    I followed this trail right to the end. Craig posts in it, but we never get to the bottom of whether the book can now be carried thorugh airport security. I assume yes (even at Luton), but it would be nice to have an answer.

    Reply

  • [...] Eurasian.net �Is that about terrorism?�, asked the lady that examined my onboard luggage. [...]

  • Jimmy Anderson says:

    I was captivated by the trial. Never understood the book being carried through airport security security, have to assume it was even though Luton airport has great security!

    Reply

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