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Al Jazeera Trial Continues in London
Peter Kilfoyle MP describes Fallujah as 'war crime'
William Pollard (will789)     Print Article 
Published 2007-05-08 13:37 (KST)   
British civil servant David Keogh and political researcher Leo O'Connor are on trial in London, charged under the Official Secrets Act. The case follows the leak of a memo about a meeting between George Bush and Tony Blair in April 2004.

In November 2005 the Daily Mirror, a mass circulation newspaper in the U.K., reported that the memo showed Bush wanted to bomb the offices of Al Jazeera in Qatar. The same report quoted Peter Kilfoyle MP as saying: "It's frightening to think that such a powerful man as Bush can propose such cavalier actions. I hope the prime minister insists this memo be published. It gives an insight into the mindset of those who were the architects of war."

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Peter Kilfoyle MP has recently been told by the special prosecution unit of the Metropolitan Police that no further action will be taken following an interview under caution last year. In a letter, DC Jasper Bartlett said: "I am writing to you regarding the police investigation into the leak of a classified government document, for which you were interviewed under caution. The Crown Prosecution Service has advised me that no further action shall be taken with regards to this investigation due to insufficient evidence."

Kilfoyle told the Liverpool Post: "I think the case has been dropped for political reasons, because they did not want me to discuss the memo in open court.

"They knew that's what I would do, even if it breached the Official Secrets Act, because I wanted to ensure the information got out. Thousands of people died at Falluja, which must be considered a war crime, and there has been a cover-up of what happened there."

Rob Merrick's report for the Liverpool Post includes some background, suggesting that the memo records that Tony Blair "apparently argued against missile strikes on Al-Jazeera's Qatar headquarters."

"The two leaders also discussed the American assault on the Iraqi city of Falluja, in which up to 1,000 civilians are feared to have died. Pictures were shown on al-Jazeera, infuriating U.S. generals."

The original Daily Mirror report pointed out that at the time of the meeting "the U.S. was launching an all-out assault on insurgents in the Iraqi town of Fallujah. Al-Jazeera infuriated Washington and London by reporting from behind rebel lines and broadcasting pictures of dead soldiers, private contractors and Iraqi victims."

The Mirror report by Kevin Maguire and Andy Lines included the comment that "al-Jazeera staff at the HQ are not, as many believe, Islamic fanatics. Instead, most are respected and highly trained technicians and journalists. To have wiped them out would have been equivalent to bombing the BBC in London and the most spectacular foreign policy disaster since the Iraq War itself."

"The No 10 memo now raises fresh doubts over U.S. claims that previous attacks against al-Jazeera staff were military errors."

In 2001 the station's Kabul office was knocked out by two "smart" bombs. In 2003, al-Jazeera reporter Tareq Ayyoub was killed in a U.S. missile strike on the station's Baghdad center.

The BBC has reported that prosecuting QC David Perry has told the jury that issues around Iraq are not relevant to decisions about guilt.

"For all I know you may be opposed to the government's view or you may support it wholeheartedly or you may be neutral. It does not matter.

"Similarly you may approve or disapprove of what the United States does.

"The real point is that there are British troops in Iraq risking their lives on a daily basis and trying to install order and calm."

Mr Perry said the publication of the memo would have posed a significant risk of making the situation in Iraq worse and British soldiers would have "borne the brunt of it."

In earlier evidence Keogh said he had "very strong feelings" when he first read the document. as reported by Richard Norton-Taylor in the Guardian, "when he started to explain why, the trial judge, Mr Justice Aikens, imposed a contempt order preventing journalists from reporting Mr Keogh's remarks to the jury."

Mr Keogh told the jury the consequences of disclosure of the document would be "purely embarrassment" and would not pose a significant risk to any British individual, civilian or in uniform.

Previously Life Style Extra reported evidence by Tony Blair's senior foreign policy adviser Sir Nigel Sheinwald.
"Sir Nigel told the court that the breach of security came at a difficult time for the coalition as a new Spanish government announced it was withdrawing its troops from Iraq following the Madrid train bombings.

"Also violence was increasing and Westerners and contractors were being targeted by kidnap gangs and the leak would have 'raised international tensions.'"
Charges laid include clauses in the Act which prohibit the "damaging disclosures" of information relating to defense and covers disclosing information which endanger the interests of the U.K abroad and the safety of British citizens abroad.

The Official Secrets Act can be argued to include not only operational secrets but revelations of actual policy. As Peter Kilfoyle is a member of parliament a prosecution against him would have probably been more publicized than the current one. His statement about why he thinks the case against him was dropped has not been widely reported.
Read more articles by the author on the Froomkin Fan blog.
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter William Pollard

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