Why Is Scottish Media Not Talking About Craig Murray's Banning From the Alex Salmond Trial?

by Greum Maol Stevenson

It didn’t take the jury long to decide whether Alex Salmond was guilty of rape, attempted rape, and the other sex crimes he was on trial for at Edinburgh High Court. Deliberations began last Friday, and on Monday Salmond was acquitted of all 13 charges.

Since then, there has been talk of a conspiracy against Salmond. But, in all the news reports and opinion pieces, one thing has been glaringly absent: any mention of Craig Murray, and his being removed from the courtroom the day before the trial ended.

Murray is a former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, turned whistleblower and columnist. He is also a friend of Alex Salmond’s. While Murray is a fine journalist, he tends to embarrass himself when writing in defence of his friends. He covered Julian Assange’s recent extradition hearing, and his portrait of Assange was such cringe-inducing hagiography that anyone who had read Andrew O'Hagan's reporting on Assange’s incompetence, grandiosity and dishonesty would be inclined to question anything else Murray wrote.

It got worse when Murray wrote about Salmond’s trial. In his fervour to praise Salmond’s record as First Minister, and trash Nicola Sturgeon’s, he praised Huawei, and, without offering evidence, cast doubt on Russia’s poisoning a former spy and his daughter in the UK.

But he wrote respectfully about the judge, Lady Dorrian, and had to admit his friend was getting a fair trial.

And then, the day before the trial ended, police removed Murray from the courtroom and told him he was banned for the duration of the trial. The prosecution had asked the judge to remove him because of a “possible contempt of court.” No further explanation was given.

Murray wrote:

To be excluded from a public trial on the basis of something I have “possibly” done, when nobody will even specify what it is I have “possibly” done, seems to me a very strange proceeding. I can only assume that it is something I have written on this blog as there has been no incident or disturbance of any kind inside the courtroom. But if the judge is genuinely concerned that something I have written is so wrong as to necessitate my exclusion, you would expect there would be a real desire for the court to ask me to amend or remove that wrong thing. But as nobody will even tell me what that wrong thing might “possibly” be, it seems only reasonable to conclude that they are not genuinely concerned, in a legal sense, about something I have written.

It was clear from the start that someone wanted to keep Murray out of the courtroom. First, it was announced that only “accredited media” (i.e. corporate and state media) would be allowed in — no independent or “citizen” journalists. Even though Murray’s blog has a bigger readership than some newspapers, and he has been praised by such journalists as John Pilger and Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, this criteria excluded him. When the prosecution had finished making its case and it was time for the defence to begin, the public gallery was opened, and Murray sat there.

Until the police came for him.

Sources say Murray was so depressed by his banning — and the threat of a charge of contempt of court, which can get you two years in prison — that, during the weekend Salmond spent waiting to find out his fate, he was so worried about Murray that he called him to see if he was all right.

When the verdicts came in, Murray was so happy he got too drunk to write about it in any depth. So… not an impartial reporter, and not pretending to be. But, whether you think he’s a truth-teller, a friend blinded by loyalty, or a conspiracy theorist, why has there been nothing about his banning in any mainstream media? Both The Herald and The National have given copious space to theories that there was an SNP conspiracy against Salmond, but Murray’s existence hasn’t been acknowledged.

It’s enough to make you wonder if there’s a conspiracy.

Also published on The Harbourmaster's Loug

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