UK ambassador is withdrawn from Uzbekistan

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Britain's ambassador to Uzbekistan has been withdrawn from his post for "operational reasons" following a series of public differences of opinion with his employers.

Britain's ambassador to Uzbekistan has been withdrawn from his post for "operational reasons" following a series of public differences of opinion with his employers.

Craig Murray has courted controversy since being appointed to the embassy in Tashkent in 2002 by publicly accusing the Uzbek government of torturing political and religious prisoners.

Earlier this week, details were revealed of a furious memo he sent to the Foreign Office, complaining that the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) was using information passed on to it by the CIA but originally obtained in Uzbek torture cells.

As well as being morally and legally wrong, the practice was unreliable because prisoners under torture could be expected to say whatever their tormentors wanted to hear, he warned.

And he wrote: "We are selling our souls for dross."

A Foreign Office spokesman said the views of Mr Murray made it impossible for him to continue to represent Britain's interests in Tashkent.

In a statement, the spokesman said: "He has been withdrawn as ambassador in Tashkent for operational reasons.

"It is no longer possible for him to perform effectively the full range of duties required in the conduct of our relations with Uzbekistan.

"In order for him to be able to do this, he has to be seen to be working in close co-operation with and enjoy the full confidence of colleagues and ministers. That is no longer the case."

Mr Murray remains a member of the diplomatic service and will be allocated new duties "in due course", said the spokesman.

He stressed that Mr Murray had not been sacked or subjected to any disciplinary procedure.

Mr Murray caused a stir by speaking out publicly in 2002 about brutality in Uzbek jails, highlighting the case of two men who were boiled to death.

His leaked memo was compiled in response to an inter-departmental meeting in London this July on the use of intelligence from Uzbekistan, which lies to the north of Afghanistan and has experienced problems of its own from Islamist militants.

Mr Murray - who was not invited to the meeting - alleged that the country's hard-line president, Islam Karimov, was seeking to portray his Government's suppression of Islamists as part of the global war against international terrorism.

And he warned: "Tortured dupes are forced to sign confessions showing what the Uzbek Government wants the US and UK to believe - that they and we are fighting the same war against terror.

"This is morally, legally and practically wrong."

Intelligence officers had argued that, as they did not know the precise source of the information they received, they could not establish whether the individual involved had been tortured or not, Mr Murray wrote.

And he added: "I will not attempt to hide my utter contempt for such casuistry, nor my shame that I work for an organisation where colleagues would resort to it to justify torture.".

Of the hundreds of cases of political and religious prisoners he had looked into in Uzbekistan, very few had not involved the use of torture, he said.

At the time of the leak, an FO spokesman said: "The UK abides by its international law commitments, in particular the UN convention against torture.

"The Government, including the intelligence agencies, neither uses torture to obtain information nor instigates others to commit torture for that purpose.

"However, we have to bear in mind the need for intelligence for counter-terrorism to avert threats to British nationals' lives.

"Where there is reliable intelligence with a direct bearing on terrorist threats, it would be irresponsible to ignore it out of hand."

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