Tim and Craig Murray (former Ambassador to Uzbekhistan) recently wrote something about the Russian/Uzbekh billionaire, Alisher Usmanov, who is trying to buy Arsenal FC. As I am writing this on my Blackberry I can't go into all the details but suffice to say not only his site, but those of Craig Murray, Bob Piper and Boris Johnson have all gone too, as they are run from Tim Ireland's webhost's server.
Why should I, or indeed you, care? Because if it happened to him it could happen to anyone. From what I understand he had broken no laws, merely linked to sites that disapprove of Alisher Usmanov and ventured an opinion that he's not someone Arsenal ought to be doing business with. As he now owns 21 per cent of the club they haven't much option now.
If a webhost pulls the plug on a blog or website merely because they receive a lawyer's letter from Schillings, a leading London law firm, then we all ought to be very worried indeed. So in this, at least, I find common cause with Tim Ireland. Despite the fact that a large part of his front page is taken up with wholly unjustified smears against me, I defend his right to say what he wants about me. It's called freedom of speech. And if he does it to me, why should a Russian Oligarch be any different?
And if I were an Arsenal fan, I'd be even more worried than I am as a blogger. This man spells trouble with a capital T.
UPDATE: Craig Murray has emailed me...
"Craigmurray.co.uk has vanished – as has bloggerheads and bobpiper – after the server has been “pulled” by services management company Fasthosts Internet Ltd of Gloucester. Fasthosts have done this in response to legal threats from libel lawyers Schillings, acting on behalf of Alisher Usmanov, the Uzbek oligarch and friend of Putin currently trying to buy Arsenal football club.
"As a former British Ambassador in Uzbekistan, I know a great deal more about Mr
Usmanov, and especially about his criminal record, than he finds comfortable. The principal point at issue is that he has been able to take down one of the UK’s leading political websites without anything being tested in court. Fasthosts have pathetically repeated Schillings bluster that my site is “Defamatory”, as though that were established.
"We all know that money talks. It seems it can stop other people talking, too. There appears a real danger that all the material on the site may be lost and not able to be
UPDATE: A point of clarification: Of the blogs mentioned above, only Craig Murray and Tim Ireland made blog posts concerning Alisher Usmanov. It is these blog posts that were objected to by Usmanov’s lawyers. Boris Johnson, Bob Piper and Clive Summerfield (among others) have lost their sites for the simple reason that they were hosted on the the same server as Craig’s and Tim’s sites and went the same way when the plug was pulled. They are NOT associated with the dispute with Alisher Usmanov in any way.