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Last Updated: Sunday, 17 October, 2004, 03:56 GMT 04:56 UK
Former British envoy is suspended
Mr Murray has been outspoken during his two years in Uzbekistan
A UK diplomat who was withdrawn as ambassador to Uzbekistan has been suspended on full pay.

Craig Murray, 45, was recalled from his post in the capital Tashkent this week.

He said the reason for his removal was his criticism of the use of intelligence allegedly obtained under torture by the Uzbekistan Government.

The Foreign Office has confirmed that Mr Murray is suspended, despite earlier statements that he was not facing disciplinary action.

Mr Murray said he became a "victim of conscience" after a memo in which he claimed MI6 had used the information was leaked to a newspaper last week.

'Operational reasons'

The Foreign Office had tried to force him to resign a year ago with "untrue" disciplinary charges, he told the BBC.

Facts about Uzbekistan
Has a population of 25m
Capital city is Tashkent
Main languages are Uzbek, Russian, Tajik
Principal religion is Islam
Became independent in 1991 after more than a century of Russian/Soviet rule
Most populous Central Asian country. Has largest armed forces
President is Islam Karimov

The FO denied the allegations and said he was removed for operational reasons.

It said the ambassador, who was recalled from the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, this week, had lost the confidence of senior officials and colleagues.

His removal has prompted an open letter to the British government from Uzbek political activists who describe him as a "force for democratic change".

But Mr Murray said officials had been trying to force him out for a year because of his despatches back to London.

In one he claimed MI6 had used information passed on to it by the CIA but originally obtained in Uzbek torture cells - something strongly denied by the Foreign Office.

Anyone who even internally questions what's happening is going to seriously damage their employment prospects
Craig Murray
In the leaked telegram, printed in the Financial Times, he wrote that the use of information gained by torture was "morally, practically and legally wrong".

"I have been a victim of conscience," Mr Murray told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"I expressed my view strongly, but only internally.

"It wasn't me that leaked my views to the Financial Times but plainly that has led to my removal from my post."

He added: "This sends a very strong signal that since the start of the war on terrorism, anyone who even internally questions what's happening from a liberal standpoint is going to seriously damage their employment prospects."

Claims 'without foundation'

Mr Murray was summoned back to London in August 2003 and presented with 18, mostly baseless, allegations about his behaviour and given a week to resign, he said.

He suffered a breakdown and the charges were dropped. But he said he planned to take legal action against the Foreign Office as his health had been permanently affected.

The Foreign Office refused to be interviewed about Mr Murray's claims, but in a statement said he had been withdrawn, not on disciplinary, but on "operational grounds".

It added that the charge it was suppressing open discussion was completely without foundation.

The government should now make it clear that it wishes to have a strong British voice for human rights in Tashkent
Amnesty International spokesman
Amnesty International UK described Mr Murray's championing of human rights as "extremely important" and said it would be alarmed if it had led to his removal.

"The government should now make it clear that it wishes to have a strong British voice for human rights in Tashkent," a spokesman added.

Tory international affairs spokesman Gary Streeter told Today it was "perfectly legitimate" for Mr Murray to criticise "the way things are working within his sphere of influence".

Craig Murray speaks to the BBC's Today Programme

Country profile: Uzbekistan
01 Nov 03  |  Country profiles

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