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09 May, 2018

Letter from Britain: increasingly illiberal establishment and the challenge of Jeremy Corbyn

Britain prides itself on being a liberal state, tolerant of diverse points of view with a judicial system based on law and evidence, but its recent behavior has been anything but that.

by Alexander Mercouris

Part 2 - The Silence of the Skripals

The first—and the one which has attracted the most international attention—is the Skripal case, in which a father and daughter – Sergey and Yulia Skripal – became the subject of a massive international campaign after they were both found incapacitated on a public bench in the British provincial town of Salisbury, victims it is claimed of a deadly nerve agent attack.

The fact that Sergey and Yulia Skripal are Russians, that Sergey Skripal is a former Russian spy who defected to the British, and that the nerve agent used—supposedly A-234, one of the so-called ‘Novichok’ family of nerve agents developed in the Soviet Union in the later stages of the Cold War—immediately led to charges by the British government that the Russian authorities were responsible.

This is despite the fact that at the time when the first accusations against Russia were made the investigation of the attack on the Skripals by the British police had only just got underway, and as of the time of writing has still failed to produce a suspect.

The Russian authorities had previously pardoned Sergey Skripal and had themselves released him to the British—making any Russian motive for an attack on him difficult to understand. Meanwhile, anyone such as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of biggest opposition party in Parliament, who dared question the rush to judgment found themselves immediately labelled a “useful idiot” or Kremlin stooge.

The disclosure that British scientists are unable to confirm that the nerve agent used to poison the Skripals was made in Russia—as opposed to being merely “developed” there—and that other countries such as Czechoslovakia, for example, also manufactured Novichok agents, has had no significant impact on the British government’s or the British media’s reporting of the case.

The suppression of all public questioning of the theory (as of the time of writing it is still only a theory) of Russian guilt has now been followed up by the effective disappearance of the two victims of the attack: Sergey and Yulia Skripal.

Not only have the British flatly refused the Russians consular access to them—violating both British and international law in the process—but after announcing news of their unexpected recovery, British authorities have ensured that no-one, even members of their family, has had access to them either.

There is no word of their condition or whereabouts, and, more troubling still, no discussion in the British media of what has become of them or that they have to all intents and purposes disappeared.

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