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Wednesday, January 04, 2006 

To publish or not to publish, that is the question.

The Guardian today carries more info on the alleged torture of a group of Pakistani men arrested in Greece following the July 7th attacks in London. What is puzzling though is the continuing suppression of the name of the MI6 chief in Brussels, which is freely available on the internet, and is today also published in Private Eye.

A group of Pakistani men detained in Greece after the London bombings yesterday told of alleged beatings, threats and psychological torture they had suffered.

Supporters of the detained men allege that agents from MI6, Britain's overseas intelligence service, were present at the interrogations of some of the men, believed to have been conducted by Greek counterterrorism officials.

British diplomatic and intelligence sources yesterday strongly denied suggestions that UK officials were present at the interrogations.

"Allegations that there was a UK presence are false," said a British official. "There was no UK official present at any of the interviews."

The Pakistanis say they were beaten, blindfolded, kept in solitary confinement and that the Greek agents threatened to kill them if they told of their ordeal.

Mohammad Munir, 35, said he was repeatedly beaten and now lives in fear. He claims 10 Greek agents came into his house, and that he was taken into a room where he was repeatedly punched: "They handcuffed me, made me face the wall and started to beat me. They hit me over the body and I fell down, hit the table and cut my lip, and blood came." The claim was backed by Azhar Mehmood, 35, also in the flat when the agents arrived: "I saw Munir with blood dripping from his mouth and handcuffed." Mr Munir said the traditional Pakistani shirt he was wearing was pulled over his head so he could not see, and he was driven away to be interrogated more.

Mr Munir said he denied any knowledge of the London bombings or any support for terrorism and after six days was released with a chilling threat: "When they let us go they told us not to talk. They said that if we did they would slit our throats." The arrests in Athens happened on July 16 and 17 and Mr Munir explained why it had taken him so long to come forward: "I was very frightened. I could not even talk to my father about this."

A Greek magazine has named a British intelligence officer it claims was present at some of the interrogations. The government has asked editors not to publish the name of the MI6 chief in Athens, identified in Proto Thema.

This is where it all starts to get confusing. The BBC have claimed that the UK government has forbidden the media from naming the man. According to the Guardian story above, the government has only "asked" editors not to name him. Private Eye however maintains that just a DA-Notice has been issued, short for defence advisory, and that such notices are only recommendations and are in no way legal binding. Private Eye goes on to point out that this man's cover was blown years ago, as he appears on a "famous Internet list of spooks". I assume this refers to a list that appeared on the Executive Intelligence Review website for two days in 1999. The list is still available on Cryptome, with accompanying articles here and here. As Private Eye also states, his name is of real interest to the Princess Diana conspiracy theorists, as he was apparently in Paris at the time of her death.

The man, in case you can't guess from the above, is Nicholas John Andrew Langman. (Cryptome has jpgs of the original articles and other information here.) Private Eye's story seems in conflict with the above Guardian article on whether he was present at the interrogations of the Pakistani men or not. The Eye claims that the Foreign Office has admitted he was there but took no part in the interrogations, while in the Guardian a British "official" states that there was no British presence.

Either way, Nick Langham has been recalled to London, whether he took part in the interrogations or was there when they happened or not. His cover has been entirely blown, and it's unlikely that he will now return to service anywhere in Europe. As Private Eye also comments, why has his name been hushed up? All it does is inspire people to believe that the allegations are true. We do not know yet whether they are or not, but if they are, his name would come out more so than it already has. Why is this Labour government so obsessed with secrecy, and our newspapers and media so inclined to carry out their non-binding orders in not naming the suspects? Apparently Nick Langham is entitled to his privacy, although the police and media freely name those who are wanted for offences, and occasionally "name and shame" others. In this supposed age of freedom of information, it seems odd that the British media is still prepared to give the government the benefit of the doubt, despite the fallout from the Hutton inquiry. Thank goodness that we do have the internet, as shown by the release of the Craig Murray documents last week, unpublished by the media apart from the tiny-circulation communist Morning Star, and magazines such as Private Eye that are prepared to take risks and defy government "advice".

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