Anti-war movement divided over trade unionist's murder

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The Independent Online

The murder of a prominent trade unionist in Iraq has provoked a split in the anti-war movement in Britain over whether he should be seen as a hero or a collaborator with the American-led occupation.

The murder of a prominent trade unionist in Iraq has provoked a split in the anti-war movement in Britain over whether he should be seen as a hero or a collaborator with the American-led occupation.

The torture and killing of Hadi Saleh in Baghdad on 4 January has become a litmus test of whether campaigners who opposed the Iraq war should "move on" and embrace moves towards democracy in the country. The more moderate voices in the anti-war camp have accused hardliners of failing to condemn the murder and implying it was a justified act by insurgents.

Mr Saleh, the international officer of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions, spent five years in jail during Saddam Hussein's regime. He returned from exile abroad after Saddam's fall to try to establish trade unions in the new Iraq. Allies say he was tied, blindfolded, severely tortured and strangled by an electric cord as part of a campaign by the "Iraqi resistance" to eradicate democrats.

His killing has been condemned by trade union bodies around the world, including the TUC, and many critics of the war. But the Stop the War Coalition has been accused of remaining virtually silent - a charge it dismisses as a smear by opponents.

Gary Kent, director of Labour Friends of Iraq (LIFQ), said yesterday: "This horrible murder has galvanised the decent left who mostly opposed the war but cannot stomach ambiguities or worse on the so-called resistance. It illustrates there is a large faultline on the left about post-war Iraq. Some armchair revolutionaries are happy to fight to the last drop of someone else's blood. But the elementary notion of solidarity with Iraqi trade unions is fast winning the day, and about time too."

The Labour MP Harry Barnes, the group's joint president, claimed the leadership of the Stop the War Coalition was "noticeably silent" about the killing until it was forced to make a brief comment.

He said: "I was very proud to support the Stop the War Coalition but its leadership has now degenerated into an unrepresentative and totalitarian rump. For me, the war was wrong but we just have to recognise that things have changed and now give increased and active solidarity to all those forces within Iraq who are desperately trying to rebuild civil society, make the elections work, preserve the unity of their country and see the withdrawal of foreign troops."

Ann Clwyd, Tony Blair's special envoy on human rights in Iraq and LIFQ's other joint president, said: "Hadi was a brave patriot who stood up for workers' rights under Saddam Hussein and suffered severely at the hands of the secret police."

Andrew Murray, chairman of the Stop the War Coalition, said: "We condemn all civilian deaths in Iraq, including those tens of thousands which are the responsibility of the occupying forces. And we recognise the right of Iraqis to resist the unlawful occupation, which is at the root of violence in Iraq and is the consequence of the war."

He accused LFIQ of using the murder to attack the anti-war movement. "This is a group established to campaign in support of Blair's strategy and against the Stop the War Coalition."

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