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Craig Murray to run for rectorship

Ex-diplomat to run for rectorship

The Courier, 7 December 2006

Craig Murray, the man who was sacked as British ambassador to Uzbekistan for exposing torture "on an industrial scale," is to stand for election as Dundee University's next rector.

It also appeared at a meeting in the city last night that one of the main planks in the former Dundee University Student Association president's campaign could be the expulsion of special branch from the university campus.

Tayside's special branch community contact unit was set up to monitor activities and garner intelligence involving ethnic minorities in universities, colleges and schools, but has come under scrutiny more closely recently by groups concerned with what use will be made of information.

Mr Murray was in Dundee last night to outline his experiences in Uzbekistan, which led to his leaving the Foreign Office after his complaints to the government met with disapproval, since the former Soviet state has aligned itself with the US and Britain in the war on terror.

The former ambassador said that when he was at Dundee in the early 80s, the university had a high proportion of students from Northern Ireland, at a time terrorism there was at its height. But he said, "There was never any special branch here then…If they had moved in then, the students would have been on the barricades."

Speaking as a guest of Scotland Against Criminalising Communities, Mr Murray disclosed how, in his first ambassadorial posting to Uzbekistan in 2002, he had quickly become aware that the country was, if anything, more totalitarian than it had been under Soviet control."What they (his FO masters) had not told me about was human rights abuses. There was no free media, opposition parties were banned, religious activity was banned and the majority of the people were de facto slaves on state farms.

"After only a week or two I was having qualms because there was an atmosphere of fear which pervaded the state."

The turning point was a show trial, he said, during which an old man submitted evidence against his two nephews. He had claimed they were Al-Qaida members but appeared in court to say his statements were untrue and had been made only because his children had been tortured.

"My appearance at court sent shock waves around the city, and people began to come to me with tales of torture. I met victims and their families, and got letters from jails and gulags."

One photograph sent to him showed a man who had been boiled alive, and a subsequent report by the pathology department at Glasgow University confirmed the man's fingernails had been pulled out, he had been beaten and died from immersion in boiling water.

"I discovered torture was happening on a industrial scale."When he sent his complaints to the Foreign Office he was told, "You are becoming over-focused on human rights."

He further told the FO that CIA intelligence on alleged terrorists was nonsense, only for it to be suggested he was being unpatriotic, and it was legal to use intelligence gained through torture, as long as someone else had done the torturing.

His career as a diplomat was effectively stalled and then finished, with an alleged smear campaign conducted against him.

TV personality Lorraine Kelly's three-year term as rector ends next year. Mr Murray said he was familiar with the university from his time here and travelling up regularly from his London home would present no problem