Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Brian Haw did what he thought was right when most people fear the light

July 2011

The revolution has begun. What started as a relatively minor issue of a newspaper hacking into the phones of celebrities has suddenly rocked the nation with a scandal of phone hacking on an industrial scale, including the hacking of phones of victims of crime, and relatives of victims of the London 7/7 bombings, with evidence of criminal payments to officers of the London Metropolitan police for information. Journalist Michael Crick stated on the BBC television programme Newsnight:

“It was a day in which we have seen significant tweaks in the way in which power is distributed in this country,when politicians asserted themselves over the media, with MPs not just crying halt to the practices of tabloid journalists, but also crying halt to the expansion of the Murdoch empire; a day when backbenchers took the initiative rather than the ministers, and also incidentally the day when Ed Milliband finally stamped his mark as Labour Party leader.”

He was referring in particular to an emergency debate in the House of Commons introduced by campaigner Chris Bryant, who began:

“At 8.50 am tomorrow, it will be six years since the London bombings, which saw 52 people murdered and 700 injured. Today we hear that the police are investigating whether the mobile phones of several of those who lost family members in those attacks were hacked by the News of the World”.

Later in the speech, talking about the failure to adequately investigate the affair, he stated: “It pains me to say this as well, but the honest truth is that a lot of lies have been told to a lot of people. When police officers tell lies or at least half-truths to Ministers of the Crown so that Parliament ends up being misled, I think it amounts to a major constitutional issue for us to face. … Did the reason that nothing happened have anything to do with the closeness between the Metropolitan police and the News of the World?”

Further into the speech he turned his attention to the relationship between the Murdoch empire and politicians: “We politicians have colluded for far too long with the media”, he said, “we rely on them, we seek their favour, and we live and we die politically because of what they write and what they show, and sometimes that means we lack the courage or the spine to stand up when wrong has occurred. … Sometimes, we may even have fallen for the threats that have been made when we have spoken out. I know of several Members who have led this debate who have received threats”.

At last, people are talking, and once that happens we can expect further revelations, whistleblowers and arrests. If the phones of families of the victims were hacked into, presumably from some list of phone numbers supplied by the police to the newspaper, then what about the phones of the victims themselves, and what about the four alleged bombers? Does someone somewhere have information on their location around the time of the bombings that would have been useful to the inquest or to further investigations? Were the alleged bombers at the bomb sites, or were they in Canary Wharf? Perhaps someone will now speak out!

I was saddend to hear of the death of Brian Haw, ten years and sixteen days after he had started his peace vigil in Parliament Square, opposite Parliament.

His initial cause was not a popular one: opposing the sanctions against Iraq. But the issue escalated. Three months into his vigil came 9/11 and the subsequent attack on Afghanistan, and nearly two years into his vigil came the invasion of Iraq, bringing further death and destruction. He managed to attract public attention to the inhumanity of those military adventures and focus opposition to them.

I drew some comfort from the fact that I first heard the news of his death on the one o'clock news of BBC Radio 4. That was, I suppose, a recognition that he had become a national institution. The following morning I scanned the front pages at my local newspaper shop, but only The Independent had a front-page splash on him. That was a half-page photo with the caption 'Peace at last'. There was also a full page of reporting on page 5, including a tribute by Mark Wallinger, artist of the Tate Modern 'State Britain' exhibition in 2007, in which Brian Haw's protest display had been recreated.

There was also nearly a whole page of obituary, and a leading article on him, all of which was sympathetic. The leading article called for the placing of a memorial stone at the place where he had his camp for nearly ten years.

In my June 2010 newsletter I called for a permanent monument to be placed there, suggesting that it be called 'The Westminster Haw Memorial'

So I wrote to The Independent in support of a memorial, and my letter appeared on 21 June under the heading 'Ugly memorial'

There have been other calls for a memorial, too.

London Assembly Member Jenny Jones has called on Westminster Council to put up a blue plaque, of the type that one sees on various buildings in London in memory of famous people.

One supporter, holding such a blue plaque, was interviewed by BBC Television.

The following day a group of MPs led by left Jeremy Corbyn called for a permanent memorial to Brian Haw to be placed in the precincts of Parliament. The MPs tabled an early day motion praising the “political inspiration” provided by Mr Haw, who died at the weekend.

Among those putting their name to the motion urging a memorial to Mr Haw’s 10-year Westminster peace vigil were Green MP Caroline Lucas and Labour MPs John McDonnell, Paul Flynn, Kelvin Hopkins, John Cryer and Dennis Skinner.

I think it would be good for as many people as possible to express support for this idea in blogs, newsletters, articles, and in comments sections to relevant web pages.

>And now the Evening Standard has reported that Lord Tyler to give Parliament Square back to the people and transform it into a new Speakers Corner.

Brian Haw, of course, did have his critics. In particular, conspiracy denier Nick Cohen attacked him for saying that 9/11 was an inside job.

"He also ought to know that al-Qaeda was responsible for the slaughter on 9/11 - it's hardly a secret. But in a video for the 'alternative' news site, Haw announces that '9/11 was an inside job, yes it was', organised by the American government and Hollywood, apparently"

That was the sort of arrogance that we all have to put up with in the truth movement from elements of the mainstream media. But I thought that a subsequent implied link with 'Holocaust denial' was despicable.

Earlier in 2007 I had been aware that people in the 9/11 truth movement were wondering why Brian Haw had not come out on the issue, so I handed him an English translation of my article which had appeared in MONATO, under the title

‘Why did the three towers of the WTC really collapse?’
[PDF file]

An hour or two later he told me that he'd read it, and that it was a good article. Shortly after that I heard that he had spoken out on 9/11. He compared the 3000 deaths with that of the number of children being killed on a daily basis as a result of world politics:

For me, what Brian Haw succeeded in highlighting most effectively was the police brutality right in the centre of what most English people would regard as the world's greatest democracy. In 2008 I had taken part in a protest march against the SOCPA law, which banned unuathorised protests within a kilometre of Parliament. At the end of the march some people were lying down in the roadway in Whitehall. I didn't agree with that, and was leaving the demonstration when I came across Brian Haw, with blood on his face and holding a broken camera. He was trying to make a complaint to the police for assault.

Brian hadn't actually been taking part in the protest, but had come from his camp just to take photos. His request to make a complaint was refused, and he was told he would have to go to the local police station to make it, he told me. When everything had quietened down I continued on my way home. Later I heard that the police had bundled him into a van and assaulted him. There were stories of screams coming from the van.

I see that as early as 2003 there had been an Early Day Motion in Parliament, stating:

"That this House expresses its deep concern that there have been a number of physical assaults on Mr Brian Haw, the peace campaigner demonstrating in Parliament Square; and calls upon the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to review the policing arrangements for the Square to ensure the safety and security of Mr Haw"

The fact that no police officer has served time for such an assault tells me that we have a militia which is above the law at the heart of our police force.

Ian Tomlinson, too, was an innocent by-stander. He was caught up in the G20 demonstration in London on 1 April 2009, when he was assaulted by a police officer and subsequently died.

An inquest verdict was returned in May 2011 of "unlawful killing"

The jury spokesperson stated:

"Mr Tomlinson was on his way home from work on 1 April 2009, during the G20 demonstrations. He was fatally injured at around 19.20 in Royal Exchange 2 Buildings, the passage, near to the junction with Cornhill, London EC3. This was as a result of a baton strike from behind and a push in the back by a police officer which caused Mr Tomlinson to fall heavily. Both the baton strike and the push were excessive and unreasonable. As a result, Mr Tomlinson suffered internal bleeding which led to his collapse within a few minutes and his subsequent death. At the time of the strike and the push, Mr Tomlinson was walking away from the police line. He was complying with police instructions to leave Royal Exchange Buildings, the passage. He posed no threat."

The jury rejected the post mortem conclusions of the first pathologist to examine Ian Tomlinson's body. Dr Freddy Patel had been under investigation by the General Medical Council since 2005, and faced 26 charges of misconduct

He was found guilty of serious misconduct in March 2011 and suspended for three months
This raises a question of what selection criteria the Home Office uses to choose it's own forensic pathologists.

Following this verdict, the police officer concerned, PC Simon Harwood, was charged with manslaughter and is to face trial on 17 October

The Crown Prosecution Service, which had previously refrained from bringing about a prosecution, claimed that there was new evidence by which they could now do so. PC Harwood was working with the Metropolitan Police's Territorial Support Group, which, I understand, is the same group that beat up Brian Haw. PC Harwood had worked for the London Metropolitan Police before, but left a decade ago amid controversy over an alleged off-duty road rage incident. He then got a job with Surrey Police, where he was accused of using excessive force, before returning to the Metropolitan police. His identity was concealed during the G20 protest; his face was partially covered and his number was not displayed.

G20 riots: Policeman who struck Ian Tomlinson faced two previous aggression inquiries

But what about the bite that Ian Tomlinson received from a police dog just before that incident? Is no-one going to be prosecuted for that?

At least there was a post mortem examination for Ian Tomlinson, even if the initial one was eventually overturned and was followed by three more. That's more than can be said of the 52 victims of the 7/7 London bombings. I've just been reading the proofs a forthcoming edition of Nick Kollerstrom's excellent book 'Terror on the Tube'. I had not realised the amazing fact almost casually announced at the inquest that there had been no post-mortem examinations of the bodies. How is it possible for an inquest in what is widely believed to be a case of murder to be held without a post mortem having been carried out on the body? How is it possible for the coroner not even to be questioning this? Well, it's 52 times worse than that. Furthermore, the bodies, we are told, were withheld by the authorities. Those bodies would undoubtedly had carried traces of the explosives used, which would have enabled identification of the explosives. Then we were give a fairy tale about the explosives being hydrogen peroxide and black pepper. This clearly looks like concealment of evidence and possible fabrication. Is this why they needed to bring in someone special, like Lady Justice Hallett? I think there should be some sort of judicial review of the inquest, and that the Crown Prosecution Service should be looking into this concealment of evidence with a view to prosecuting whoever is responsible.

At least the 52 victims had an inquest of sorts, which is more than can be said of the alleged terrorists. Where are their bodies? Were any post mortem examinations carried out on them? Why were the legal processes circumvented? Where is the Crown Prosecution Service here?

The Crown Prosecution Service is responsible to Parliament through the Attorney General. On 9 June the Attorney General announced in the House of Commons that he had decided not to hold an inquest into the death of former government weapons inspector Dr David Kelly.

Dr Kelly had been at the centre of controversy after it had been revealed that he had been the source of a BBC story that the claims concerning weapons of mass destruction in Iraq had been “sexed up”. He was then interrogated in a televised hearing of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee on 15 July 2003, and the following day he was interviewed by the Intelligence and Security Committee in a private hearing. On 17 July he went for a walk near his home in south Oxfordshire, and was not seen again until his body was discovered the following morning. The Oxfordshire coroner opened an inquest, as he was obliged to do under English law, but Dr Kelly’s death certificate was signed without awaiting the outcome of the inquest. A government inquiry was also set up, and the functions of the inquest were transferred to the inquiry under a law brought in in 1988. Accordingly, the inquest was adjourned on 14 August.

The Hutton inquiry concluded in January 2004 that Dr Kelly took his own life. The coroner subsequently closed the inquest. However, questions were soon being asked, both about the evidence concerning Dr Kelly’s death, and about the judicial processes, in which a proper inquest had been avoided.

In 2006 a British MP, Dr Norman Baker, took a year out from the Liberal Democrat shadow cabinet whilst he researched Dr Kelly’s death, eventually publishing a book, ‘The Strange Death of David Kelly’. He came to the conclusion that he thought that Dr Kelly had been murdered.

In July 2009 a team of 13 doctors announced that they were planning to mount a legal challenge to the findings of the Hutton inquiry. They had produced a detailed medical dossier, which they planned to send to the forthcoming inquiry by Sir John Chilcot into the Iraq War.

A week later, a US Air Force linguist, Mai Pederson, who served with Dr Kelly’s weapons inspection team called on the then Attorney General to carry out a “formal, independent and complete review” into the “suspicious circumstances” of Dr Kelly’s death, revealing that he had been unable to use his right hand for tasks requiring strength, and that he had a disorder which made it difficult for him to swallow pills, both of which threw into doubt the manner of death described by Hutton:

Now David Kelly’s former Iraq aide joins call for inquiry into his 'suicide'.

Shortly after that, a former coroner called for a proper inquest, and this was backed up by MPs from all parties:

A MEDICAL lawyer last night called on the Government to hold an inquest into the death of controversial biowarfare weapons inspector David Kelly because he believes there is insufficient ­evidence that he committed suicide.

In January 2010 it was revealed by The Mail on Sunday that following the Hutton inquiry, Lord Hutton had secretly ordered that all medical reports, including the post-mortem findings and photographs of Dr Kelly’s body, remain classified information for 70 years.

In August 2010 a letter appeared in The Times from eight medical experts, calling for a proper inquest. They stated that the inquiry by Lord Hutton was unsatisfactory with regard to the causation of death, that a detailed investigation of all the medical circumstances was now required, and that they supported the call for a proper inquest into the cause of Dr Kelly’s death.

Following this call, Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke on October 22 ordered the release of some of the medical records which Lord Hutton had ordered to be withheld for seventy years.

Then on 25 October 2010 a pharmacologist, Dr Andrew Watt, wrote to the new Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, requesting him to apply to the High Court for an order that a Coroner-led inquest be conducted, quoting the same Coroner’s Act of 1988 that had been used to replace the original inquest by an inquiry

He quoted four grounds for the request: “1. Rejection of evidence 2. Irregularity of proceedings 3. Insufficiency of inquiry and 4. Discovery of new facts or evidence”. The first of the twenty points on ‘insufficiency of inquiry’ was that no evidence had been taken on oath.

Dominic Grieve when in opposition as the shadow justice minister, had told the Mail on Sunday that the investigation into the death of government weapons inspector Dr David Kelly should be reopened because the public had “not been reassured” by the official verdict that he killed himself.

In a letter passed to The Mail on Sunday, he praised the group of doctors who were campaigning for a coroner’s inquest, and questioned the judgment of Lord Hutton, who had chaired the inquiry into the death.

On March 26, 2011, three doctors wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister calling for a proper inquest, headed ‘Subversion of due process and insufficiency of inquiry in the investigation into the death of Dr David Kelly’. They wrote that the laws of the UK, and indeed of Europe, require that the death of any British citizen dying in the manner in which Dr David Kelly is said to have died is investigated at an inquest, at which the Coroner possesses statutory powers. These include the power to hear evidence under oath, the power to subpoena witnesses, the power to have witnesses aggressively cross-examined, and the power to call a jury. Lord Hutton, he stated, possessed none of these powers, but the public was led to believe that Lord Hutton was better equipped to investigate Dr Kelly’s death than was the Coroner. Furthermore, he said, Lord Hutton had heard medical evidence for just one half of one day out of the twenty four days of evidence. No coroner in the land, they stated, would have reached a suicide verdict on the evidence which Lord Hutton had heard.

The statement by Attorney General Dominic Grieve in the House of Commons on 9 June 2011 therefore came as a surprise to many who had been expecting a formal inquest to be announced, though there had been some controversy when, in an answer to a parliamentary question, the Prime Minister had stated that he saw no need for an inquest

This led to allegations of political interference in what should have been a judicial matter. However, Dominic Grieve stated that he had acted in a non-political role as guardian of the public interest, and that he had received no representations of any kind from the Prime Minister or any other ministerial colleague on this decision. He concluded that the evidence that Dr Kelly took his own life was overwhelmingly strong, and that nothing that he had seen would support his making an application to the High Court for an inquest. “There is no possibility that, at an inquest, a verdict other than suicide would be returned”, he stated.

However, the Press Association put out a statement saying that the group of doctors led by Dr Stephen Frost had accused the government of being “complicit in a determined and concerted cover-up”, and that they would now seek a judicial review of Mr Grieve's decision. They denounced the Hutton report as a "whitewash" which "failed adequately to address the cause of death itself and the manner of death". Dr Frost stated that this was “clearly a political decision when it should have been a decision based solely on the law".

He stated that the decision had “no basis in law", and called for Mr Grieve to resign.

This was reported by the Daily Mail, whose website article was headed:

“'A continuing cover-up': Fury as Attorney General refuses full inquest into the death of Dr David Kelly”.

Former assistant coroner Michael Powers was interviewed on Channel 4 television, where he made out the legal case for a proper inquest, irrespective any suspicion of murder.

The previous day the Crown Prosecution Service itself had been under scrutiny when the evening television programme Newsnight revealed evidence that the Crown Prosecution Service, the body responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales, did not disclose information in a court of law which it should have disclosed according to its own rules. The television presenter, Jeremy Paxman, known for his persistent interrogation of evasive politicians, announced: “It’s a very serious accusation. Tonight Newsnight returns to the extraordinary story of the undercover cop Mark Kennedy. We have evidence that the Crown Prosecution Service didn’t disclose material which might have saved people from convictions. It’s a demonstration either of serious incompetence or of something tantamount to a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice”:

On January 10, a trial had collapsed of six environmental protesters accused of conspiring to shut down the coal-fired Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station in Nottinghamshire in 2009, when one of those arrested, though not charged, turned out to be a police undercover agent.

I reported on the scathing remarks by their defence lawyer in my January newsletter

It turned out that PC Mark Kennedy was present also at the G20 demonstration in London when bystander Ian Tomlinson died, Mark Kennedy was also identified in a left-wing demonstration in Germany a few days after the collapse of the British trial and and Spiegel-TV Magazin later produced a documentary on Mark Kennedy’s participation in demonstrations in Germany as a British undercover agent.

Journalist Richard Watson explained: “When the trial collapsed this January it was the police who were accused of withholding evidence and the CPS did nothing to disabuse anyone of that impression, writing to the defence and to the court that the new evidence had come to light just two days earlier. But emails held on CPS computers will show this was highly misleading. On the 17th of June 2009 there was a crucial email exchange. A very senior CPS lawyer based in the Special Crime Division in London, called Nick Paul, sent an email to another CPS lawyer based in Nottingham, called Ian Cunningham, who was reviewing the police evidence against the climate campaigners. Mr Paul wrote about the existance of ‘the participating informant’, a reference to the undercover policeman. Of even greater significance is Mr Cunningham’s reply. He wrote about ‘sensitive disclosure issues’ that ‘reinforced the difficulties’ of the case, clear evidence that senior CPS lawyers knew about the sensitivities of the undercover policeman two years before the case was to collapse”.

This was followed by a discussion with a former director of public prosecutions, a former Labour Solicitor General and one of the six defendants in the case that collapsed in January. They were all agreed on the seriousness of the issue, and that there should be an independent inquiry, though the environmental campaigner pointed out that inquiries held so far behind closed doors had not been looking at the bigger questions, such as in whose interest all of this had happened. It's all very well to have public inquiries, but will they lead anywhere? It sounds to me as if they need some prosecutions. But how do you prosecute the Crown Prosecution Service?

If the Crown Prosecution Service is above the law, and the Attorney General is under pressure to abandon inquests, and politicians can avoid inquests by setting up public (i.e. political) inquiries, and coroners can be specially selected to ignore concealment of bodies and the lack of post mortem examinations, then we have a pretty macabre situation. It means that whoever is running this country, and possibly other countries in the West as well, has a licence to kill.

Keep talking. The more people who keep talking the better. Brian Haw aimed to bring a focus to the carnage being brought about abroad by people in Westminster. In fact he achieved more than that; he also brought a focus to the thuggish brutality at the heart of the very institutions that are enabling these military adventures. Now that he is gone, in order to maintain that focus, we need a Westminster Haw Memorial. Brian Haw was a thorn in the side of a corrupt Establishment. Perhaps we should call the coming revolution the ‘Hawthorn Revolution’. Its symbol should be a twig of hawthorn.

1949 - 2011

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us." ~ Marianne Williamson

Keep talking.