A Tale of Two Incarcerated Women

Chelsea Manning has done a great service in finally stripping away the last vestige of excuse from the figures who refuse to support Julian Assange, says Craig Murray.

By Craig Murray

On International Women’s Day on March 8 Chelsea Manning was imprisoned yet again, this time for refusing to testify against Julian Assange before a Grand Jury. Chelsea has already suffered over seven years of total imprisonment – no American had ever previously spent more than three years in jail for releasing government secrets to the public, in a land which had historically valued free speech.

I am in awe of Chelsea’s courage in refusing to testify, and shocked at a system that imprisons somebody for contempt of court for maintaining dignified silence.

Chelsea has also done a great service in finally stripping away the last vestige of excuse from the figures who refuse to support Julian Assange, pretending that they do not believe he faces extradition to the United States, and that the legal issue is not about Wkileaks’ right to publish.

The potential charges in Sweden – always based on quite ludicrous accusations – were dropped years ago after he was finally interviewed in the Ecuadorean Embassy by Swedish police and prosecutors, and it became very plain indeed there was no viable case against him.

Manning: In jail again. (Wikimedia Commons)

Chelsea has gone to prison for refusing to participate in the prosecution of Wikileaks for publishing materials that revealed war crimes in the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Chelsea is a whistlebower, not a publisher. Assange is a pubisher, not a whistleblower. If Assange can be prosecuted for publishing official secrets, then so can every newspaper editor or television editor involved in the receipt of whistleblower material.

There is a massive, a fundamental, media freedom issue at stake here. Even so, the MSM in the UK do not even have the guts to state the truth about what causes Julian to be confined to the Ecuadorean Embassy, let alone to support his right to publish.

Meanwhile in Iran

Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe is in jail in Iran for spying for the British. She is certainly not an MI6 officer, and I can’t see that she would have sufficient access to information to make her of much use as an agent (as MI6 calls its informants). That she was involved in training Iranian journalists or citizen journalists in ways the Iranian government did not like is much more probable, but does not amount to espionage. Even if she were some kind of low level informant to MI6 (which I doubt), the Iranian authorities have sufficiently made their point and it is time to let her go.

The British government’s attitude to this case has been particularly interesting and extremely unusual. I cannot criticise them for the things they have done, because they are the things I used to get frustrated with them for never doing. But their handling of this case is truly out of the ordinary.

The UK allows dual citizenship. It has been longstanding Foreign Office policy that the UK does not give consular protection to UK dual nationals in the country where they are also a national. If the other state does not allow dual citizenship, it might not recognise any British standing in the matter. But there is another compelling reason for the standard policy of not assisting in these circumstances.

When working in Embassies, I used to get infuriated by cases where I wished to help people but was not allowed to, because they were dual citizens. It was explained to me, that if in Nigeria alone we accepted as consular cases all the British/Nigerian dual nationals in Nigerian jails, that would already double the FCO’s entire consular caseload worldwide. To accept dual nationals as consular cases everywhere in their other homeland would increase consular work by a large multiple and require a very large increase in FCO resources.

I nevertheless always felt we could do more. That the British government had, prior to yesterday, already done so much to try to help Nazanin Zagahari Ratcliffe, even though she was an Iranian dual national in Iran, was already extremely unusual. That the UK has now “adopted” the case, raising it to the level of a state dispute, is something not just unusual, but which I don’t think has happened since the First World War. Please note this is not the same process as granting Zaghari Ratcliffe herself diplomatic status, which has not been done.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her husband, Richard Ratcliffe. (Wikipedia)

Again, I can’t criticise the FCO for this, because adoption is something I had urged them to do in a past case while I was on the inside, (shout out to my friend John Carmichael), again being told by the FCO it was not possible as we never do it.

Whether the move is effective or wise in this case, is quite another question. It seems to me likely the Iranians will take it as confirmation that she is a spy. I would urge the Iranian government to take this course; they should now declare the the adoption of the case as a state dispute proves that Zaghari Ratcliffe is a spy, and having been proven right before the world, they will let her go as an example of mercy and compassion.

There are two fundamental points here. The first is that Iran has been subjected for years to crippling sanctions and an international campaign of hate spread by western government propaganda and their MSM. Western governments have aligned themselves with Saudi and Israeli sponsored brutal proxy wars against Shia communities across the Middle East, which look to Iran for protection. If the Iranian government is defensive and suspicious, is that really surprising? The week after the British government declared Hezbollah, the political and security organisation of Lebanese Shias, to be nothing but a terrorist organisation, do the Tories really think the Iranians will be looking kindly on them and their demands over Zaghari Ratcliffe?

The second point is that the entire purpose of the state “adopting” a case, is to make available the dispute resolution mechanisms which operate between states. But the UK only a few days ago repudiated the International Court of Justice, the final arbiter of such disputes, over the Chagos Islands. As the UK shows total contempt for international law, this attempt to access its remedies will be met with derision by the wider international community.

Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British Ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and Rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010.

14 comments for “A Tale of Two Incarcerated Women

  1. Rebecca Olsen
    March 19, 2019 at 16:39

    ChelseaManning is NOT a woman. You can change your name but you can’t change your sex. Quit feeding in to this madness.

  2. Godless
    March 16, 2019 at 18:46

    This article should be expanded to the tale of three women to include Reality Winner.

  3. mark
    March 14, 2019 at 15:24

    I don’t know if Ratcliffe is guilty of espionage or any other crime.
    She may be entirely innocent. She may be guilty. Unless you have intimate knowledge of the case and the individuals concerned, you just can’t say. It may be that she is innocent but the Iranians believe her to be guilty in good faith.
    Certainly it is true that British Spook Organisations have a long history of using such people for espionage and subversion.
    What is also true is that the US quite openly has a Regime Change programme in place against Iran, involving terrorist groups like the MEK which have caused mass casualties in Iran, sabotage and political subversion, with a budget of hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Bolton, Pompeo, and the Orange Baboon himself, brag about this on a daily basis and shout about it from the rooftops.
    Iran faces daily threats of military aggression from America and the Zionist Regime, cyber warfare, assassinations and bombings, economic strangulation, and constant propaganda vilification. Under the circumstances, Iran is entitled to be on its guard, maybe even a little bit paranoid.
    If the Foreign Office can “spring” Ratcliffe from jail by conferring on her some kind of diplomatic status, maybe Iran could do the same thing with Julian Assange.
    And of course the UK is more of a satellite of the US than East Germany ever was of the Soviet Union.

  4. Brian James
    March 13, 2019 at 17:09

    Allot folk’s have no idea how large the Corporate prison system actually is in the U.S. which holds the most people in the entire world. Even more than Communist Cinia with over a billion people.

    Sep 18, 2015 Enter the biggest prison system in history

    The Empire holds by far the most prisoners than any other country on earth, in both absolute numbers and per capita. Abby Martin explores the dark reality of conditions in America’s prisons, who is warehoused in them, and how things got this way.


  5. Kay Weir
    March 12, 2019 at 17:15

    Chelsea Manning is a great hero of human rights and democratic principles that have been abandoned by the US and UK. To accept going to prison a second time, this time to support Wikileaks, and Julian Assange, now in prison in the Ecuador Embassy in Britain, shows enormous courage. May angels protect her.
    It’s shocking to realise how far the US and UK have gone in rejecting principles of justice and international law,and the UN Charter.
    Mainstream media seem unaware of the hell hole this has consigned millions to in the world to as a result of
    the West’s wars. The ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen has been knocked off the front pages, in favour of misrepresenting yet another war this time on Venezuela, the latest target of western warmongers. Behind all this is the future of the UN, which is constantly being flouted by western countries who, at the same time with forked tongues love to lecture other countries about the rule of law.

  6. March 12, 2019 at 16:35

    Thank you for your keen eye and sense of fair play in international affairs Mr. Murray. The players would do well to pay attention to your suggestions, and I wonder if you dare set up an international Good Sense Agency, contracting out to faltering intelligence agencies and governments. (?)

  7. Eva Coombs
    March 12, 2019 at 11:46

    Chelsea has ‘amour propre’ self respect, she has earned more than that, as a shining example of defiance of the deep state, sadly she is almost alone!

  8. Jeff Harrison
    March 12, 2019 at 09:19

    Given the contempt that “The West” holds for the international mechanisms that they themselves set up but transparently only intended to be used against non-Western countries, I wouldn’t expect the Iranians to pay much attention to the author’s arguments.

  9. Bob Van Noy
    March 12, 2019 at 08:55

    It’s incredibly refreshing to see Craig Murray on CN. There are two distinct topics discussed here both of enormous significance. The deeply important first amendment fight going on around WikiLeaks and then the incredible, ongoing US manipulation of Iran that has been a feature of America’s Deep State since forever (at least 1953 or earlier). Clearly we must finally sort out the collusion and obfuscation that have characterized these two issues from their beginnings.

    If one simply reads David Talbot’s “Devils Chessboard” one can see the purely evil manipulation of a Sovereign and Democratic Government by those who deemed themselves more worthy. Time for it to end. Many Thanks…


  10. john wilson
    March 12, 2019 at 05:52

    Going to a country like Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, etc etc, to train journalists is frankly, stupid and asking for trouble. It also suggest a kind of arrogance insofar as it suggests that the host country needs some kind of training for journalists not available in that country. Journalistic output generally reflects a particular country’s government and if you look at the US or UK, you won’t find many journalists on MSM giving an alternative point of view. True, alternative journalism can be found on the internet and periodicals, but bit by bit this is slowly being censored and shut down. Even this very day ‘ZH’, a well known alternative news site (really well worth a look if you haven’t heard about it), has been banned from the facebook platform because facebook doesn’t agree with ZH content. Facebook are not apparently censoring ZH for any kind of inflammatory hate speech etc, but they just don’t like the political content of ZH. I suppose the old adage “if you go to Rome do as the Romans’ do” is the only way forward these days.

    • OlyaPola
      March 12, 2019 at 11:19

      “Going to a country like Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, etc etc, to train journalists is frankly, stupid and asking for trouble.”

      Well as in Russia in the 1990’s some don’t remember the catechism that “Abscence makes the heart grown fonder and familiarity breeds contempt.”

      That proved useful in various ways as does the opponents’ continued immersion in derivatives of orientalism.

  11. Ma Laoshi
    March 12, 2019 at 05:22

    When the Trump admin went absolutely ballistic about that stupid “pastor” in Turkey, escalating up to a frontal attack on the Turkish Lira and thus risking a breakup with a key NATO ally, it could be safely inferred that this pastor-without-a-significant-flock-to-tend was indeed a CIA spy. Occam’s razor leads us to a similar conclusion here: that Ms. Ratcliffe was, if not a spy, then at least some agent of the British special services. In his convoluted wording, Mr. Murray all but admits that he also understands as much, but obviously considers it unhelpful to put this in writing.

    But British naughtiness vs Iran goes a good deal further than this article mentions. Together with the other usual suspects they seem to be involved in fomenting domestic terrorism in Iran. And just last August, when there was some posturing that a US strike on Iran might be imminent, the ever-eager War Minister Williamson rushed to the cameras with his unsolicited confirmation that in such an event, Britain would of course join the party. That makes Britain a straight-up enemy of Iran, though in fairness there was little left to prove after Britain waged war against Iran’s Syrian ally; if Ms. Ratcliffe pledges allegiance to this enemy, then returns to Iran to engage in political activism there, is it so strange that there are consequences?

    If London wants its girl back, they’d better play nice for a while and offer something very attractive in return.

    • AnneR
      March 12, 2019 at 12:07

      Quite. The very fact that the UK govt is “breaking” its own rule of not interfering in the detention/imprisonment of one of its dual citizens when they are being held by the govt of that citizen’s other citizenship is highly suspicious, frankly.

      Oddly enough, well not really, the BBC world service and NPR constantly cover instances of “wrongful arrest/detention/imprisonment” of journalists (or so-called journalists) and others like, say “human rights workers” or “tourists” or “ethnic minorities,” when those people are held by countries who do not toe the western diktats: China, Russia, NK, Iran and so on, yet rarely or only in passing do they mention the US doing likewise (often with the help of the UK – renditions and so on).

      On NPR there has been no mention of Chelsea Manning being imprisoned, no mention of the Assange “case,” just as there was no mention of the Marzieh Hashemi detention. The BBC has mute about these cases, too.

      We hear nothing about the conditions under which American prisoners are held (solitary confinement used a lot and often for long periods of time – and this is a known psychological torture technique); about the near slave labor expected of prisoners; about the necessity of the prisoners having to work for literally a few cents a day in order to purchase foodstuffs; of the deliberate curtailing and or reduction in family members being able to visit prisoners. And forget Guantanamo – well, we are supposed to, aren’t we? And forget Abu Ghraib and the “black sites” where the CIA and their friends tortured prisoners. Instead we reward the torturers and those who destroy the evidence of their criminal, despicable and immoral actions – Haspel springs immediately to mind.

      Orwellian on every bloody level.

    • Eric32
      March 12, 2019 at 12:19

      > frontal attack on the Turkish Lira and thus risking a breakup with a key NATO ally, it could be safely inferred that this pastor-without-a-significant-flock-to-tend was indeed a CIA spy.<


      It's been rare to see anyone who has caught on to that CIA phony pastor and how the Turkish lira just happened to lose value, causing the Turks serious problems in foreign denominated debt and USD priced commodities. There's even a book on how the US uses finance as a weapon against other states.

      Currency Wars: The Making of the Next Global Crisis Paperback – August 28, 2012
      by James Rickards

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