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British Courts hide the memo that could well have contained the request by Bush to bomb Al Jazeera
Categories: Politics

Guardian Unlimited | Comment is free | For their eyes only
Two men are to be tried behind closed doors in an Old Bailey courtroom in a move that will stop the public finding out whether George Bush proposed what would have been a war crime and how Tony Blair reacted. The evidence the government does not want us to hear is in an official record of a meeting in Washington in April 2004, when the situation in Iraq was deteriorating fast. The memo, it has been reported, refers to Bush’s alleged proposal to bomb the Arabic TV channel al-Jazeera, and is said to reveal how far Blair went in criticising US military tactics in Iraq at a time when troops were bombarding Falluja.

David Keogh, a former civil servant, is charged with unlawfully disclosing the memo. Leo O’Connor, a former Labour researcher, is charged with disclosing a classified document. The way the government went about demanding a private trial, and the arguments used by the judge to allow it, are deeply disturbing.

Sir Nigel Sheinwald, Blair’s foreign-policy adviser, who was present at the Washington meeting, told government lawyers that the disclosure of the memo “could have a serious impact upon the international relations” of the UK, and was likely to have damaged the “promotion or protection” of British interests, including those of British citizens in Iraq.

Sheinwald signed a certificate necessary to persuade the judge that the trial should be held in secret before Keogh and O’Connor were charged at the end of last year. We now know that, soon after the men were charged, government prosecutors requested an adjournment of the pre-trial hearings until April 2006. They said they needed a certificate from the foreign secretary. Two weeks later Margaret Beckett replaced Jack Straw. In June she signed the required certificate. The government has not explained why Straw failed to sign one when he was foreign secretary.

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