National Union of Journalists | 27.10.2002 14:39
Sent: 24 October 2002 17:20
Subject: shayler note
On Monday Oct 28 at 9.30 am the place to be is outside the Old Bailey. That morning the trial of David Shayler finally starts. There has been unreported legal wrangling going on for two weeks over state applications for parts of the trial to be held in camera and for four MI5 witnesses to be anonymous.
These applications, in PII certificates, were granted by the
judge. Shayler appealed against them and lost. But the judge imposed a ban on reporting any of these proceedings, on the grounds that it would prejudice the trial proper when it started.
That's why no-one knows about this. (I've been in court some of the time.) It is a massive cover-up. Shayler's case is against the incompetence and corruption of the security services and they are desperate to cover it up. The CPBF and the NUJ have supported David all along. He needs it. All legal attempts to ameliorate the severity of the charges against him (six years in jail) have now failed and, officially, he has NO LEGAL DEFENCE. His defence of justification, the public interest, the necessity to expose wrong-doing etc, has already been struck out by the courts.
He is defending himself, because ,he says, his lawyers cannot do so because according to the law they have no case to argue. There will be a picket in David's support outside the Old Bailey. The NUJ has made some placards. David's supporters are gathering in the Magpie and Stump boozer opposite the courthouse at 9.30am.
Please come if you can.
16 October 2002. Thanks to O.
O. writes: On October 7, UK government ministers signed Public Interest Immunity
certificates ('D-notices') that ban the British media from reporting evidence
currently being presented at the Old Bailey by David Shayler, and also ban
them from reporting the fact of the gag order itself.
Following are texts of two newspaper articles. The first is coverage
of the gag order, published yesterday in The Age, a Melbourne-based
newspaper. The second was published on the front page of the Guardian
on Monday, and subsequently removed from their website without comment (apparently other UK newspapers have done the same with their coverage).
More on UK assassination plots and censorship:
Media gag on alleged plot to kill Gaddafi
By Paul Daley
October 10 2002
The British media have been gagged from reporting sensational courtroom evidence
of former MI5 spy David Shayler, including his alleged proof that the British
secret service paid $270,000 for al Qaeda terrorists to assassinate Libyan
leader Muammar Gaddafi in 1986.
In its efforts to contain Mr Shayler's allegations to the privacy of the
court, the government has even stopped the media from reporting its successful
attempt to win a gag order.
The decision by an Old Bailey judge to stop the media from reporting parts
of Mr Shayler's evidence came on Monday after two senior ministers, David
Blunkett and Jack Straw, signed Public Interest Immunity certificates.
The certificates, which were submitted to the court, insisted that the media
and the public leave the court if the activities of the security and intelligence
agencies were raised by the defence.
The then Labour opposition strenuously opposed the Tory government's use
of the certificates during the arms-to-Iraq prosecution in the early '90s.
Some guilty verdicts were subsequently overturned on appeal because the defence
successfully argued that it had been deprived of relevant information.
When such certificates are issued, it is standard practice for the judge
to read the applications and publicly hear the arguments for and against
a gagging order, before ruling. But in the case of Mr Shayler - a 36-year-old
former MI5 officer who is accused of disclosing government secrets to the media and in a book - the government wanted the judge, Justice Alan Moses,
to consider the application in private.
The British media widely reported on Monday that lawyers acting for Mr Shayler
had accused the government of trying to "intimidate" Justice Moses. But on
Tuesday the newspapers - many of which had mounted their own legal case against
the application of the certificates - reported simply that the court had
heard legal arguments relating to Mr Shayler's trial. "The judge ruled that
they (the legal arguments) cannot be reported," The Guardian reported.
Although Mr Shayler's jury trial is expected to begin next week in the Old
Bailey, any evidence relating to sensitive security or intelligence matters
will be kept private. After the judge's ruling on Monday, several articles
detailing Mr Shayler's anticipated evidence - and the government's efforts to keep it secret - were withdrawn from newspaper websites across the country.
It is believed the government successfully applied to have parts of the trial
heard in camera. This applies to evidence on "sensitive operational techniques
of the security and intelligence services".
It is also believed that the court agreed to keep the identities of MI5 agents
secret and to allow them to give evidence from behind screens.
Ministers issue gag orders for MI5 trial
Blunkett and Straw accused of trying to intimidate judge as Shayler case
starts today at Old Bailey
Monday October 7, 2002
Ministers have demanded that part of the trial of David Shayler, the former
MI5 officer, which starts at the Old Bailey today, be held in secret in what
lawyers say is an unprecedented attempt to influence the course of criminal
The home secretary, David Blunkett, and the foreign secretary, Jack Straw,
have signed public interest immunity certificates - a device designed to
gag a court - insisting that the media and the public leave if activities
of the security and intelligence agencies are raised by the defence.
They signed identical certificates last Friday, three days before the
long-awaited trial was due to open.
Conservative ministers signed a series of PII certificates during arms-to-Iraq
prosecutions in the 1990s. Guilty verdicts were subsequently quashed on appeal,
mainly because the defence was deprived of relevant evidence.
The use of the PII certificates was strongly attacked by the then Labour
opposition as well as by Lord Scott, chairman of the arms-to-Iraq inquiry
and now a law lord. The certificates were used at the time to persuade a
judge to prevent the disclosure to the defence of documents considered sensitive.
The normal practice is for a trial judge to read the documents and decide,
after hearing the case for secrecy, whether they should be disclosed.
Now ministers are demanding for the first time that the trial judge agree
in advance that the court should go into secret session, without providing
evidence to back up the prosecution's case and without the defence having
the opportunity to argue against it.
The government was accused by lawyers yesterday of trying to intimidate the
trial judge, Mr Justice Alan Moses, and of interfering in the criminal process.
Michael Tugendhat QC will today oppose the demand for parts of the trial
to be heard in secret on behalf of the Guardian and other national newspapers.
He is expected to underline the importance of the principles of open justice
and freedom of expression and argue that the government has provided no evidence
that national security could be threatened.
Geoffrey Robertson QC, acting for the civil rights group Liberty, will also
oppose the government's move.
Government officials and lawyers persuaded the two cabinet ministers to sign
the PII certificates after they learned that Mr Shayler intended to defend
himself at the trial. They appear to be worried that he will make further
allegations about MI5 and MI6 knowledge of a plot to assassinate the Libyan leader, Muammar Gadafy, in 1996.
A book, Forbidden Truth, published this summer claims that British intelligence
was in contact with "Osama bin Laden's main allies" who were opposed to Colonel
In an earlier case relating to Mr Shayler's allegations, the appeal court
last year ruled that "unless there are compelling reasons of national security,
the public is entitled to know the facts and as the eyes and ears of the
public, journalists are entitled to investigate and report the facts".
Mr Shayler is charged under three counts with breaking the Official Secrets
Act. They relate to disclosures published in national newspapers in 1997,
including how MI5 held files on prominent politicians, - among them Jack
Straw and Peter Mandelson - it once considered potentially subversive, and
how it tracked the movements of a Libyan official suspected of being an
The prosecution has put together five large files containing newspaper reports
relating to allegations by Mr Shayler.
By coincidence, Mr Justice Moses was the prosecuting counsel in many of the
arms-to-Iraq cases involving disputes over PII certificates signed by ministers,
and Mr Robertson was defence counsel in the most controversial case involving
three directors of the machine tool company Matrix Churchill.
The argument about whether any of the trial should be heard in secret will
be held in public. The jury is unlikely to be sworn until after the matter
National Union of Journalists