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Downed blogger Murray vows to continue Usmanov attacks

Ex-ambassador defiant in libel row

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Former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray has vowed to carry on making allegations against billionaire Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov, despite attempts to silence him and his supporters.

Murray told The Reg: "If the man believes he was libelled then he should take me to court."

Murray's blog was deleted by its host on Friday after threats from Usmanov's UK legal team. It's expected to reappear in the early hours of tomorrow on an overseas server, and will repeat the charges that drew heavy fire from specialist libel firm Schillings.

The ex-diplomat says he has contacted Schillings to ask for clarification of which specific aspect of his allegations they contest, but has not received a response. "They say my book [Murder in Samarkand] is 'grossly libellous and defamatory', yet it has been widely available for a year and has sold 25,000 copies, without their actually taking any legal action," he added.

Murray's criticism of Usmanov stems from his rise in Uzbekistan following the collapse of communism to become one of Russia's richest men. He denies the accusations. His profile in the UK has skyrocketed since he followed Chelsea chairman and fellow oligarch Roman Abramovich into football investment.

Murray's blog entry about Usmanov, made September 2, were picked up by many political and Arsenal websites which later also received complaints from Schillings. It became the third-highest hit on Google for the search "usmanov", but was quickly removed from Murray's site after the first legal letter.

Tim Ireland, who runs the political site Bloggerheads.com, which was downed along with Murray's site, has slammed Fasthosts' action, and denied the claim that they refused to comply with takedown requests after he repeated Murray's allegations.

Fasthosts says it acted according to standard industy practice and has declined to answer Reg questions.

Ireland said Fasthosts has so far failed to provide copies of two of the three complaints made by Schillings. "We don't have any of the correspondence despite multiple requests," he said.

The third complaint was made weeks after the September 2 post was removed. The takedown meant the Google robot instead indexed another piece Murray had penned in October 2005 that included the name.

On contact from Fasthosts, site administrator Clive Summerfield suspended the site and wrote back to Fasthosts to suggest that it, Schillings, Ireland and Murray liase on what was acceptable. Fasthosts responded by pulling the plug on his two dedicated servers on Friday.

Bloggerheads and craigmurray.co.uk were part of a small stable of sites run by Summerfield. This connection explains the deletion of Tory mayoral hopeful Boris Johnson's site, despite it having no involvement in the Usmanov affair. The action also downed the website of the London Bach Society and an independent record label.

The new hosting has been arranged separately from the rest of Summerfield's sites - Murray believes that Usmanov's lawyers are trying to make him back down by attacking others.

We asked Murray if he intends to stay on Usmanov's back. He replied: "There is room on Usmanov's back for an awful lot of people. You could get even more on his stomach, and possibly lose some under the overlap of his chins."

We think that's a "yes". ®

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