View Full Version : MP may be tried as traitor
04-27-03, 10:04 AM
MP may be tried as traitor
Antony Barnett and Martin Bright
Sunday April 27, 2003
George Galloway, the anti-war Labour MP who is suing over allegations he secretly took money from Saddam Hussein, faces the prospect of a criminal prosecution for treachery.
The Observer can reveal that the Director of Public Prosecutions is considering pursuing the Glasgow politician for comments during the Iraq war when he called on British troops not to fight.
In an interview with Abu Dhabi TV during the Iraq conflict, Galloway said: 'The best thing British troops can do is to refuse to obey illegal orders.' Lawyers for service personnel claim his call for soldiers to dis obey what he called 'illegal orders' amount to a breach of the Incitement to Disaffection Act 1934. The maximum penalty is two years in jail.
The relevant part of the Act is Section 1, which states: 'If any person maliciously and advisedly endeavours to seduce any member of His Majesty's forces from his duty or allegiance to His Majesty, he shall be guilty of an offence.' Under the terms of the Act, the word 'maliciously' means wilfully and intentionally.
Galloway dismissed attempts to prosecute him, but said: 'I hope to have chiselled on my gravestone: "He incited them to disaffect."'
The lawyer spearheading the action is Justin Hugheston-Roberts, chairman of Forces Law, a nationwide group of 22 law firms which acts for service personnel and their families.
The case is being handled by Hugheston-Roberts's law firm in Wolverhampton, Rose Williams and Partners.
The last time a prosecution was brought under this law was in 1974, when a protester was charged after distributing leaflets outside Army camps urging soldiers not to accept postings to Northern Ireland.
Galloway's calls for British troops to disobey orders came during the TV interview in which he described Tony Blair and George Bush as 'wolves' for embarking on military action.
When accused of treachery, Galloway said: 'The people who have betrayed this country are those who have sold it to a foreign power and who have been the miserable surrogates of a bigger power for reasons very few people in Britain can understand.'
After Galloway made the comments on Abu Dhabi TV, Hugheston-Roberts wrote to the DPP asking him to prosecute or allow a private prosecution to be brought.
Last week the Crown Prosecution Service wrote to the lawyers requesting more information and details of the comments Galloway made.
Hugheston-Roberts has refused to reveal the identity of his clients, but said they were meeting this week to decide on the best course of action.
Hugheston-Roberts said if the CPS decided not to prosecute but gave consent for a private action, then his clients would be happy to pursue that avenue.
Human rights lawyers said last night it would be an extremely difficult case to pursue. Roger Bingham of the civil rights group Liberty said: 'Galloway's statement is an expression of opinion. We live in a free-speech, democratic society and elect MPs to speak out on national issues.'
Andrew Burgin, of the Stop the War Coalition denounced the move. He said: 'This war was immoral and illegal and should never have been fought. This proposal to prosecute is part of an ever-expanding witch-hunt against George Galloway because he was the most vocal anti-war voice.'
This latest twist comes as The Observer reveals details of a secret trip Galloway made to Morocco for the British-based Saudi dissident Saad al-Fagih, an Islamic fundamentalist who purchased a satellite phone used by al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
In February 1996 Galloway flew to Morocco for a secret meeting with the then Crown Prince of Morocco to explore a deal between the Islamic Saudi dissidents in the UK and the Saudi royal family.
04-27-03, 10:05 AM
How Scottish feuds were reignited in desert sands
As George Galloway fights for his political life, Stephen Khan explains how old rivalries in Dundee have come to a head in Baghdad
Sunday April 27, 2003
As the sand settles, knives are being sharpened. Ripples from the war to topple Saddam are about to be felt. Rival clans, religious factions and ideological cadres jockey for position.
A murky soup of pent-up bitterness and grudges is returning to the boil. It will spill over and burn those who have stirred it. Yet these are not the marshlands of southern Iraq. This is Scotland.
The petty rivalries of Scottish politics and public life have become tied in with the collapse of one of the world's most despotic regimes. Sand from the storm in the Gulf is falling on Glasgow and it is largely down to the exotic political tastes of one of Scotland's best-known figures.
Debating North Sea oil revenues, fox-hunting bans and new tartans would never have satisfied George Galloway. From an early age as a fiery left-winger on Tayside in the Seventies, he displayed a passion for the politics of the East. Nablus was twinned with Dundee. The Palestinian flag flew over the city chambers. Trips to the West Bank and Lebanon began the tan. Sharp suits were joined by smart cars and soon Red George of Dundee had become Gorgeous George. Before he became an MP in 1987, Galloway's swagger and the controversy that seemed to follow him everywhere had propelled him to the forefront of the political scene.
In the post-Calvinist world that is working-class Scotland an ingrained dislike of certain types of success is burned into the national psyche. The working-class hero is fine, but do not let him adopt the clothes of his betters. The words 'know your place, son' have rung in the ears of many who have left Scotland and accumulated wealth, fame or notoriety.
It is the Lulu effect. Billy Connolly and Sean Connery would also recognise it. The message is simple: do well, but don't do too well and, if you spend time away, don't dare go native. Remember where you are from.
That Galloway chose to deal in the political currency of Najaf rather than that of Arbroath has done him few favours in Scottish Labour, but has earned him allies outside it.
One of the most loyal has been the entrepreneurial journalist Ron McKay, himself a maverick. Galloway and McKay met in Beirut in 1978. Galloway was on a solidarity trip with some fellow left-wingers. McKay was stringing for the Sunday Times.
Since then, they have been by each other's side through thick and thin. 'George and I are good friends and I am proud of that,' McKay told The Observer recently. Yet they have been more than friends: they have been business partners.
In the early Seventies McKay became a reporter on the Scottish Daily News, a paper launched as a workers' co-operative with £2 million of funding from the Labour government but defeated by intense competition.
A more successful launch for McKay came in the Eighties when he set up a magazine group including Mediaweek and sold it on for a profit.
The journalist is no stranger to controversy, having twice been arrested. Following the murder of Conservative politician Airey Neave in 1979, McKay was held by Belfast police for questioning about interviews he had conducted with a number of suspects in the case, but no charges were brought.
More than a decade later the Edinburgh constabulary detained him after a break-in at their headquarters. By that time with Scotland on Sunday , McKay had been given stolen documents by an anonymous source and police charged him with handling. The charges were dropped but the case made headlines.
Such experiences fuelled a creative urge in McKay and in the early Nineties he churned out four works of crime fiction to mixed reviews. But he was never far from a newsroom and in 1999 became a key member of the team that launched Scotland's newest paper, the Sunday Herald .
Often when Galloway has been hounded by the press, the silver-haired figure of McKay shadowed him. Most famously they combined to launch the Mariam Appeal which plucked a little Iraqi girl from obscurity in Baghdad after the 1991 Gulf war and brought her to the UK to be treated for leukaemia.
McKay and Galloway insisted it was an act of charity. The Scottish press saw Mariam, Galloway and McKay as pawns in Saddam's propaganda game.
In 1996, the pair teamed up to launch a newspaper aimed at British Asians, called East. Much of the funding came from the government of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan. More recently they launched an online news service called OrientMagazine.com.
McKay's latest incarnation has been as the boss of a stillborn English language television station, which was to have launched for the war in the Gulf. Although it never actually broadcast, Arab TV provided the world with one big scoop: Tony Benn's interview with Saddam.
Would-be assassins writing Scottish political columns took aim. Galloway must be involved, it was claimed. How could this station be objective when connections to Saddam's regime were exploited to secure the scoop?
Last month McKay said: 'Perhaps my association with George has opened doors for us but he is not involved in ATV. We have both been to Baghdad on a number of occasions - sometimes together and sometimes separately - but the channel has been developed over the last three months. I bumped into George last week and he asked me how things were going but, until then, I hadn't seen him for a long time.'
One person who was involved was a Jordanian businessman known to both Galloway and McKay. Fawaz Zureikat had represented the Mariam Appeal in Iraq and smoothed her passage to Scotland for the operation.
Zureikat pledged £4 million to help set up Arab TV and promised to meet the first year's annual running costs of £10m. But Zureikat was arrested by Jordanian secret police during the first week of the war. His assets were frozen and Arab TV was without funding.
As Saddam's statue was being pulled down, McKay admitted that his dream of establishing an English language TV network for Arabs was in tatters. 'Fawaz has been released now, but we will not be broadcasting. We are still hoping to set up a production company, though. We've got some great footage.'
Zureikat's name was to emerge days later - on the front page of the Daily Telegraph. The newspaper's story claiming it had found files in Iraq purporting to show that Galloway had received money as part of the UN oil for aid programme alleged that his intermediary was Zureikat.
Jordanian businessmen, deposed Arab dictators, hard-talking journalists and international intrigue. Can this really be Scottish politics? Little wonder so few people are paying attention to an elec tion for what is widely seen as a Mickey Mouse parliament.
Many of those who a decade ago occupied the mundane domesticity of central Scotland are now key players in the Labour government. But the battles of yesteryear left painful scars. Deep wounds were inflicted during the Eighties and Nineties as the campaign for the Edinburgh Assembly reached its zenith.
Galloway famously deep-ened Labour divisions when, after the 1992 election defeat, he called for the party to extend the hand of friendship to the Scottish Nationalists. His decision to appear with leading members of the SNP at rallies caused outrage among party mandarins. He was a marked man.
Even within his Kelvin constituency, there are whispers. The divisions are not as simple as left and right. In the multi-faceted world of Glasgow politics everything from religion to media alliances and views on the Middle East is a key to survival.
'He has been a very divisive influence on the constituency party,' said a senior Glasgow Labour figure. 'I have never seen anyone split a room like George.'
Yet many remain true to him. The pages of the Herald were stuffed with letters of support for Galloway. Willie McKelvey, a Labour stalwart, yesterday said he would support Galloway if he stood in the next general election as an independent. 'He's my friend, but he's also a socialist.'
Galloway will have to ensure alliances built over decades survive the pressure they will now come under.
Yesterday, Bill Spiers, general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, told The Observer : 'I have known George Galloway for the best part of 30 years. We have fallen out over issues and made up. But if any element of these allegations is true it would be stunning for me and all the rest of us who have stood by him in the past.'
Galloway's reputation and future may not rest on his guilt or innocence, but on how many of those who have trusted him over the years remain loyal.
04-27-03, 10:06 AM
Fresh doubts surface over embattled MP
Martin Bright, Antony Barnett and Mark Hollingsworth
Sunday April 27, 2003
The embattled Labour MP George Galloway acted as the secret 'emissary' for a British-based Islamic dissident who purchased a satellite phone supplied to al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
The phone was used by Osama bin Laden and his associates to plan the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.
Further details of Galloway's relationship with Saad al-Fagih, a fundamentalist opponent of the Saudi regime, emerged this weekend as the Glasgow MP continued to fight for his political life.
A former media adviser to Saudi dissidents in London has told The Observer that Galloway, who last week denied that he had received money from Saddam Hussein's regime, flew to Morocco on 2 February 1996 for a secret meeting to discuss the political situation in Saudi Arabia. Only two others were present: Crown Prince Mohammed (now the King) and a senior Moroccan intelligence official.
The meeting was arranged by the Moroccan embassy in London to explore the possibility of negotiations between the Saudi dissidents in the UK, including al-Fagih and the House of Saud. Galloway has always spoken out against bin Laden and Islamic terrorism and there is no suggestion he supported al-Fagih's relationship with al-Qaeda.
However the disclosure of this secret meeting raises further concerns over his involvement with foreign political interests. Speaking from Portugal, Galloway refused to comment on this trip or his relationship with al-Fagih.
Galloway was unaware that, just months after his trip to Morocco on al-Fagih's behalf, the Saudi purchased an 'Exact-M' satellite phone on behalf of bin Laden's representative in London, Khalid al-Fawaaz.
It was later shipped to bin Laden's second-in-command, Mohammed Atef. Al-Fawaaz was tried in absentia for the African embassy bombings and is now in Belmarsh prison fighting extradition to the US.
At the time of his secret trip to Morocco, Galloway was giving advice to Islamic dissidents in London, including al-Fagih and Mohammed al-Masaari, a Saudi dissident whom the Government was seeking to deport. Galloway was closely associated with the Committee for Defence of Legitimate Rights, a Saudi opposition group run jointly by the two Saudis.
In May of that year, he was reported to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards over allegations that he had not declared his interest when he spoke in a Commons debate on Saudi Arabia. Galloway told the investigation that he did not receive money from CDLR, but was simply reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses by al-Fagih.
The commissioner found that he had not broken the rules, but expressed 'concern that he was acting on behalf of an overseas interest'.
According to John Franklin-Webb, who worked as a media adviser for the CDLR for 18 months, Galloway's discreet overtures to the Saudi royal family were carried out with al-Fagih's blessing. Franklin-Webb claims the Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah also approved the meeting.
According to Franklin-Webb's account, at the end of the meeting Galloway was asked to board a private jet to fly to Saudi Arabia for talks. Galloway initially tried but failed to contact al-Fagih and so did not fly. Al-Fagih refused to comment on Galloway but said: 'We have always rejected any overtures made by the Saudi regime.'