Cameron´s ex-underling Coulson convicted, Rupert Murdoch still at large

Andy Coulson and David Cameron, cartoon by Steve Bell

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Andy Coulson guilty over phone hacking as Rebekah Brooks walks free

• Former Downing Street spin doctor convicted by jury
• Ex-NoW editor Brooks cleared of all charges
David Cameron apologises for employing Coulson
• LIVE blog: follow the latest reaction to the verdicts

Lisa O’Carroll and Patrick Wintour

Tuesday 24 June 2014 12.31 BST

David Cameron‘s former communications chief Andy Coulson is facing jail after being found guilty of conspiring to hack phones while he was editor of the News of the World.

Coulson stood emotionless as he absorbed the news.

The News of the World‘s former managing editor Stuart Kuttner was also found not guilty on phone-hacking charges, but the jury have not reached unanimous verdicts on two further charges faced by Coulson and one charge faced by the News of the World‘s former royal editor Clive Goodman.

The judge instructed them to deliberate further and gave them a majority direction, which means they can return with a verdict that is not unanimous.

Coulson’s verdict raised immediate questions for Cameron, who hired him as director of communications only a few weeks after he quit the News of the World.

In a brief statement to camera, the prime minister offered a “full and frank apology” for employing Andy Coulson at 10 Downing Street, saying: “It was the wrong decision and I am very clear about that.”

He said he had given Coulson a second chance after he left the News of the World but conceded this was the wrong decision.

Cameron said he had asked Coulson about whether he knew about phone hacking, and he said he did not. “Knowing what I now know, those assurances were not right,” Cameron said. “It was obviously wrong of me to employ him. I gave someone a second chance. It turned out to be a bad decision.”

Coulson has spent the last seven years denying he knew about hacking and shocked everyone bar his defence team in court when he revealed for the first time he had listened to the voicemail of former home secretary David Blunkett in 2004, three years before he was hired by Cameron.

He went into the trial last year pleading not guilty to committing a crime by conspiring to hack phones and consistently denied that he had any knowledge the practice was widespread at the tabloid since he had resigned from the News of the World in January 2007. At that time he had stepped down because he took “ultimate responsibility” when one a reporter, royal editor Clive Goodman, had pleaded guilty to phone hacking.

His admission that he knew one of his reporters had hacked into the home secretary’s messages at a time when Britain was at war in Iraq and he did not sack or discipline him, raises questions about the security vetting he was subjected to before he was given clearance to work at No 10 in 2010.

Coulson has told the Leveson inquiry that he may have had “unsupervised access” to material designated top secret or above and attended meetings of the national security council.

At the Leveson inquiry in June 2012, Cameron said that when the Guardian first reported in 2009 that phone hacking at the News of the World may have gone farther than a single rogue reporter, the PM said Coulson had repeated an assurance made on taking the job with the Conservatives that he had known nothing about it.

Under oath, Cameron replied: “I was reliant on his word but I was also reliant on the fact that the Press Complaints Commission had accepted his word, the select committee had accepted his word, the police had accepted his word, the Crown Prosecution Service had accepted his word.” But at that point in 2009, Coulson had not been interviewed by the police, CPS or a select committee on the subject: and the PCC never interviewed Coulson personally.

In a sign of the political battle ahead, Labour’s shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, accused Cameron and the chancellor, George Osborne, of a grave error of judgement in appointing Coulson as director of communications at the Conservative party and then again in 2010 appointing him to head the No 10 press operations.

Osborne had conducted the initial interview with Coulson in 2007, and made the recommendation that Cameron appoint him to run his press operation in opposition in 2008.

In the House of Commons, Balls pressed ahead with an attack on Osborne during Treasury questions: “The jury has just delivered its verdict and the government’s former director of communications has been found guilty of a conspiracy to hack phones,” Balls said. “Does the chancellor now accept that it was a terrible error of judgement [to appoint Coulson]?”.

Bercow interrupted to say the matter did not relate to the chancellor’s responsibilities, but Balls was nevertheless allowed to go further. He continued: “Does the chancellor accept he has brought into disrepute the office of the chancellor and the Treasury by urging the prime minister for his own reasons to [b]ring Coulson into government and has he not damaged his own reputation, and that of the government?”

Osborne replied that the verdicts had been announced in the court, and that he intended to go and study them. “And if a statement is appropriate from me and the prime minister there will be one, not in Treasury questions where we are talking about the economy.

Labour will have to judge how it responds to the trial and the verdicts. The party feels it is legitimate to press the issue of Cameron‘s personal judgement, but is also aware that if ii oversteps the mark, it will look to be making political capital. Downing Street senses that Cameron‘s misjudgement has been factored into the share price.

One of the victims of phone hacking, the former Labour home secretary David Blunkett, said the issue was not about vindictiveness or vengeance. “It is about criminality, it is about obtaining justice, and I hope that has been obtained,” he said.

Blunkett told the Guardian it was little understood how hacking leads to a breakdown in trust within a circle, as its members cannot be sure how private information came into the public domain.

Brooks’s acquittal will provide some relief for Rupert Murdoch, who once described the woman who rose to be chief executive of his London based News International operation [as] his “top priority” when the phone hacking crisis first broke in the summer of 2011.

Coulson’s conviction brings the number of former News of the World journalists facing jail over phone-hacking to five. [B]efore the trial three former newsdesk executives, including Greg Miskiw and James Weatherup, pleaded guilty, as did the phone-hacker Glenn Mulcaire and a former reporter, Dan Evans, who confessed to hacking Sienna Miller’s messages on Daniel Craig’s phone.

Neville Thurlbeck, the News of the World‘s former chief reporter and news editor, pleaded guilty after the police found the tapes he had of Blunkett’s messages in a News International safe. Sentencing is expected a few days after the trial is finished.

Tainted Prime Minister David Cameron was badly scorched yesterday as he attempted to escape the heat of the phone hacking scandal. Labour leader Ed Miliband accused him in the Commons of bringing disgrace to Downing Street by employing the “criminal” Andy Coulson as his closest adviser: here. And here.

PRIME Minister Cameron used his usual tactic at prime minister’s questions yesterday, when asked why he brought a criminal into 10 Downing Street and thereby tainted the government, despite numerous warnings that he should not on any account employ him: here.

Disgraced No 10 spin doctor Andy Coulson was jailed for 18 months yesterday on phone hacking charges. Labour branded the jail term an indictment of Prime Minister David Cameron’s judgement: here. See also here.

Andy Coulson, the former News of the World (NotW) editor and former head of communications for UK prime minister David Cameron, was given an 18-month jail sentence Friday, for conspiracy to intercept voicemail messages: here.

Former Fire Brigades Union general secretary Andy Gilchrist demanded further investigations are placed on the relationship between News of the World staff and politicians after a jury found one-time editor Ms Brooks not guilty: here.

News of the World hacking trial ends: Scandal still poses threat to Britain’s ruling elite: here.

Cameron’s hypocrisy on Magna Carta and British civil liberties

This video is called Secret courts in the UK.

From daily News Line in Britain:

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Cameron’s Magna Carta hypocrisy

THIS week the Tory-led coalition is set to announce yet more changes to the education syllabus, changes designed to further Cameron’s pledge to drive all that is ‘un-British’ out of schools and indoctrinate in children as young as five the ‘morality’ of capitalism – that greed is good.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Cameron pledged that all school children will be taught about Magna Carta as part of his drive for a ‘more muscular’ promotion of British values.

This insistence on its importance from a government that is determined to smash up the most basic principle enshrined in it, is beyond irony.

Magna Carta was forced on King John in 1215 by feudal barons determined to limit the power of the king and end the completely arbitrary rule by monarchs – its main provision was that no ‘freeman’ (serfs didn’t get any rights under feudalism) could be punished except under the rule of law.

The concept of legal rights for accused people was further extended by the Habeas Corpus Act forced on King Charles II in 1679. This laid down that the state must produce an accused person before a court and they must be released if the detention is unlawful.

For centuries the working class has fought to extend these rights to everyone. These rights have been under increasing attack by the coalition which has introduced secret courts where not only the identity of the accused is kept secret but even the fact that a trial is taking place at all, on the spurious ground of being a matter of national security, along with the charges.

Only last week the court of appeal blocked the first ever completely secret trial in this country.

While Cameron was writing about Magna Carta being ‘the foundation of all our laws and principles’ he and the capitalist state are hell bent on ripping them up.

With police spies and provocateurs infiltrating every protest group, no matter how legal or peaceful they are, on the grounds that they represent a threat to national security, with trade unions being designated as the ‘enemy within’, and the security services carrying out mass and illegal surveillance on the entire population, these basic rights are under attack in an unprecedented way.

But the Tory plans for education do not stop at this monumental act of hypocrisy. On Thursday, Cameron is set to announce sweeping reforms to primary and secondary schools that mean teachers will be required to teach young children about the benefits of capitalism and how they can make ‘profits’.

This radical departure from the old ethos of education is aimed, according to the government, at promoting self-employment and encouraging young people to set up their own companies.

In short, it is saying to children as young as five that profit is the only thing and that when they leave school there will be no jobs for them – the best they can hope for is to try and scrape a living through part time, low paid and very uncertain ‘self employment’, a category that encompasses everything from washing car windscreens at traffic lights through to zero hours ‘contracts’.

For the millions of young children in families forced to survive through the charity of food banks, and living in overcrowded temporary accommodation courtesy of the coalition’s austerity cuts to pay and benefits, these reforms preaching the capitalist values of profit before all else are an obscenity.

Today, when the banks and the entire capitalist system that places the profit of the capitalist class above all considerations of human need, are universally hated by workers and young people, these attempts to brainwash the next generation into believing in the joys of capitalism are doomed to failure.

Workers and youth are not stupid, and no amount of propaganda from Cameron and Gove will convince them that they must passively accept poverty and homelessness as the price to keep this bankrupt capitalist system going. The days of this government are definitely numbered!

Dear Mr Gove: what’s so ‘British’ about your ‘British values’? Here.

British government persecutes Bahraini pro-democracy activists

This video says about itself:

Bahraini women and children are being raped and tortured

27 September 2011

While UK PM David Cameron is supplying the Bahraini regime with arms to stop the protests and thus adding to these women’s misery.

From the Middle East Monitor:

Bahraini activists speak out about ‘systematic persecution’ by British government

Alastair Sloan

Tuesday, 27 May 2014 09:28

Human rights groups have claimed Bahraini pro-democracy activists in London are being “systematically persecuted” by the British government, with specific accusations made against Whitehall departments, the Metropolitan Police and a high profile member of the House of Lords.

The accusations come as King Hamad of Bahrain, whose family have ruled the tiny Gulf state for over two hundred years, visits the UK. His presence has been protested by human rights groups and Bahrain activists.

The claims have also been backed up by senior officials from Human Rights Watch as well as several Middle East NGOs.

“We believe we are being systematically targeted,” says Dr Saeed Shehabi, a leading member of the Bahrain Freedom Movement living in London. Shehabi has been sentenced in absentia to several life imprisonment terms in Bahrain, and was convicted alongside thirteen other opposition leaders who are currently serving their sentences in Bahrain. “We believe there is a programme of systematic persecution that the British government is carrying out for the Bahrainis against our community.”

“I would give anything to return to a free democratic Bahrain,” said Ali Mushaima, another prominent activist whose father has been imprisoned in Bahrain, “but the British government have become an obstacle.”

Both men claim that Bahraini exiles have been harrassed by Metropolitan Police officers, ignored by Foreign Office officials, detained without explanation by UK Border Authority officials and defamed by a British member of the House of Lords, who recently visited Bahrain with a delegation of Labour MPs and is known to be close with the al-Khalifa family.

“It has been almost impossible to secure direct meetings with the any Ministers at the Foreign Office,” says Shehabi, whose Bahraini citizenship was revoked along with thirty one others in 2012, a move condemned by human rights organisation.

“The message we get is that meeting with us would be the red line in the British relationship with the Bahraini regime,” he adds.

The UK government has historically enjoyed a close relationship with Bahrain, which gained independence from the British in 1971. It is a key trade as well as military partner, with a heavy British military presence based in Manama, the capital of the tiny Gulf state.

Despite dozens of meeting requests, pro-democracy activists have only managed to secure one meeting with a Foreign Office Minister and that the Foreign Office was taking special measures to avoid publically meeting with Bahraini exiles.

The regime’s repression of the pro-democracy movement has been a controversial topic since the Pearl Roundabout uprising of February 2011 — with over a hundred deaths attributed to an ongoing government crackdown, amid frequent admonishments from human rights groups.

“We get the sense that the British government are very hostile towards us,” says another activist, Ali Mushaima, who staged a protest on top of the Bahraini embassy in 2012.

“My father is serving a life sentence for supporting the peaceful revolution,” Mushaim adds, “and is being denied treatment by prison guards for a cancer condition.”

“The British have offered no humanitarian assistant to the thousands of political prisoners in Bahrain. Instead, they accuse them of being terrorists” says Mushaimi.

The Liberal peer Lord Avebury has told Memo that the London Metropolitan Police are also accused of stopping and searching Bahraini exiles routinely, under spurious “terrorism-related offences.

“The Independent police Complaints Commission has taken over a complaint I made about the unlawful use of stop and search powers against Bahraini exiles,” said Lord Avebury. “On March 25th, the High Court granted permission for a substantive hearing on this and similar complaints by cases against the Metropolitan Police.” Lord Avebury also told Memo that the police had refused to hand over the results of their own investigation by the IPCC.

Two Bahraini exiles had their London home raided by the Metropolitan police last week at around 6am on Tuesday morning. The men were both released without charge. A Twitter account understood to be operated by the Bahraini regime announced the men had been arrested, two hours before the arrest took place.

“How did they know?” said one activist. “This is a concerted effort to smear pro-democracy activists as violent terrorists, a smear in which the British government is colluding.”

Opposition activists have also called on the government to stop threatening Bahraini asylum seekers with deportation.

Husain Parweez and Mohammed Sudaif, prominent activists who fled Bahrain in February, were detained on arrival in February by UKBA officials and threatened with “fast-track” deportation, despite showing documents which proved they would face long politically-motivated prison sentences if they returned.

Bahrain Watch and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, based in London, had to launch an emergency legal challenge in order to prevent the men’s deportation.

Dan Carey of Deighton Pierce Glynn solicitors, who represented both activists said:

“These two Bahraini activists came to the UK fleeing torture and flagrantly unfair criminal trials. In allocating them to the Detained Fast Track process, the Home Office was not only falsely imprisoning them, it was placing them at real risk of a prejudiced asylum claim and a return to torture and an unfair trial.

“On no sensible view were their cases straightforward ones suitable for this process. I am ashamed that this is how the UK welcomes brave Bahraini pro-democracy activists. This policy must change.”

A third Bahraini, Isa al-Aaali, iscurrently in an immigration removal centre ready for deportation, has been sentenced to 5 years imprisonment in Bahrain and will face high risk of torture if returned, activists claim. He has one of a hundred detainees at Harmondsworth immigration detention centre currently on hunger strike protesting poor conditions and unfair treatment.

Pro-democracy activists have also slammed Lord Gulam Noon, the Labour peer implicated in the cash-for-honours scandal in 2006 and nicknamed “The Curry King” on account of his food business empire. He admits to being personal friends with the al-Khalifa family and is a frequent guest speaker at the Bahraini-British Business Forum.

In an article entitled “Traitors Not Refugees,” published in an English-language newspaper in Bahrain, Lord Noon claimed that Bahraini pro-democracy activists living in London “are not refugees or asylum seekers, but are connected with the external agencies that are against the Kingdom.”

Noon was leading a delegation of MPs from the UK Parliament to Bahrain, a country where he also told reporters that he planned to retire. He added “I consider myself half Bahraini.”

“In the UK, we are fully aware of the situation where our judicial system is allowing citizenship too easily,” he went on. “We are trying to review the possibilities of a change in the legal system, as we see that many are abusing this privilege,” said Lord Noon, adding that this would take time. Lord Noon holds no formal brief for immigration policy.

Lord Noon has also been criticised by activists for making a speech in the House of Lords in March, in which he said the Bahrain government had made good progress on promised reforms after the revolution began in February 2011.

The speech provoked a letter of complaint from the human rights group Bahrain Insitute for Rights and Democracy.

Sayed Alwadaei, a Bahraini working at the NGO and living in London, told Memo:

“I encourage Lord Noon to respect his title as Lord and admit his friends’ crimes, which were documented by Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) orderd by Bahrain’s government.”

“It is an insult to the exiled Bahrainis in the UK, who escaped from the torture in Bahrain,” Alwadaei added.

Lord Noon was approached for comment but did not respond.

The government of Bahrain frequently claims a promised package of human rights reforms (known as BICI) are being gradually implemented – but human rights activists contest this.

According to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, 95 people have been killed by security forces since the start of unrest.

The country still sees weekly clashes between security forces and protesters, and the question of torture, as documented in the government inquiry into the Pearl Roundabout protests, has yet to be adequately addressed according to Human Rights Watch. In fact, according to the human rights watchdog Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, none of the 176 reforms the monarch promised to make after the bloody uprising of 2011 have been fully implemented.

Members of the Foreign Office have also been accused of ignoring human rights concerns in Bahrain. The country was not include in a list of “countries of concern” by the FCO Human Rights Report 2013.

Nick McGeehan of HRW, told Memo “It has appeared for some time that this British government will go to some lengths to cosy up to their allies in Bahrain.”

“Bahrain has a hard-earned and well-deserved reputation for torture, which is the reason British courts have granted asylum to so many of its opponents and critics.

“The UK should not be doing the bidding of deeply repressive Gulf autocrats.”

“It seems that Cameron rather quickly forgot his promise,” said Sarah Leah Witson, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division, referring to a speech he gave at the United Nations in September 2011, in the wake of the Arab Spring.

“Cameron promised “stand up against regimes that persecute their people” and pledged “we are on your side,” to those in the Arab world who “want greater democracy greater freedom, greater civil rights.”

“Now, the UK is back to business as usual, as if the uprising in Bahrain never happened at all.”

Lord Avebury, commenting ahead of next week’s meeting attended by Prince Andrew and King Hamad of Bahrain, also commented “Its entirely wrong that members of the royal family should be embroiled with a regime that is proved to torture dissidents, arbitrarily sentence human rights campaigners to life imprisonment, and imprisons bloggers who criticise the al-Khalfa rulers.”

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