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Trial in Al Jazeera Leak Case Set for Jan. 24
Daily Mirror reports Powell opposed bombing of Arabic TV network
William Pollard (will789)     Print Article 
Published 2006-01-11 14:44 (KST)   
After a brief court appearance in London on Tuesday, David Keogh and Leo O'Connor were released on police bail to appear for a preliminary hearing on Jan. 24. Keogh -- a former communications officer at the British Cabinet Office -- faces two charges under the Official Secrets Act. He allegedly leaked a memo in April 2004 to O'Connor, a researcher for Anthony Clarke, then a British Member of Parliament (MP). As reported by the Daily Mirror in November, the memo may contain minutes of a meeting in which there was discussion of action against the Arabic Al Jazeera television network.

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The Daily Mirror recently reported that Colin Powell joined Tony Blair in arguing against "the President's plan for missile strikes on al-Jazeera's HQ in Qatar." Other reports have suggested that the Bush statement may have been intended as a joke.

MP Peter Kilfoyle has admitted to seeing the document. He is quoted by the Mirror as saying "I was informed that Powell had attended the White House meeting in question and I believe the minute shows Powell intended to dissuade the President from his proposed course of action."

Colin Powell is quoted as saying "You're asking me about a two-year-old meeting that I don't remember."

There is growing interest in the background to this court case. Christopher Hitchens has written in Slate about the "Bush Bombshell," and considers possible reasons to believe the proposal was actually made. He points out that the use of the Official Secrets Act implies there is some reason to protect the information. He also suggests the view that Bush was being "humorous" would not have been made unless there was some basis to the story.

Hitchens also offers a third reason, the response of Colin Powell to questions from Daily Mirror reporter Ryan Parry outside St. John's Episcopal Church in Maclean, Va., on Sunday morning. Asked about the meeting, the reply was successively "I can't remember every meeting.... I don't know, you'll have to forgive me... I don't recall this." Hitchens described Powell's comments as a brushoff of a "nondenial denial" sort.

Hitchens has called for release of the memo, arguing, "It is high time that this question was ventilated by people other than British editors and journalists who labor under the repressive conditions of the Official Secrets Act."

CNN reports that O'Connor's lawyer, Neil Clark, has said that he was finally shown the document at the heart of the case on Tuesday morning but he, too, would be breaking the law if he disclosed its contents.

"It is what I expected having read the reports in the media," Clark said. "I didn't think there was anything in the document that would embarrass the British government. I will be seeking the disclosure of the document in court."

Mark Stevens, a lawyer for Al-Jazeera who came to Tuesday's hearing as an observer, is quoted as saying: "if President Bush seriously considered bombing Al-Jazeera's headquarters then it would be a war crime. If he made that kind of remark frivolously then he would effectively be treating a war crime as a joke."
Author's Correction: A previous story about the arrest of journalist Ali Fadhil in Iraq confused two people with the same name. The reporter working for Channel 4 and The Guardian is not the same person as the blogger quoted in the article. Thanks to Bill Willi for pointing this out.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter William Pollard

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