26 January 2006

Similarities with the ABC trial of 1978

I print below an interesting comment I have received from one of my readers Sal ibn Hari. It takes me back a few years, but I actually remember reading about this ABC trial as it unfolded. The story had been covered in the Timeout magazine, which I used to see most weeks, and I believe mere mention of the details of the case seemed to cause great alarm amongst the authorities. If memory serves me correctly, I think there were heated arguments about what could or could not be published in the press - ultra secret stuff was apparently involved - but this turned into another of those fairy stories the security services like to dream up.

Anyway, this is what Sal ibn Hari has to say:

I have read your blog from start to today. What an interesting account of a less than known spy story. I was interested in the mention of Dr Meirion Francis Lewis and the *accuracy* of his evidence.

I must admit to not knowing much about the various DEFSTANS used but I do like a good spy story. Yours, in the aftermath of your actions is all the more interesting for this.

When I read of Dr Meirion Francis Lewis, a man I have never heard of, I immediately remembered another trial, which on immediate reflection seemed far from your case, but on second thoughts was a lot nearer.

In February 1977 a conversation occurred between two journalists and an ex-corporal who was involved with the interception of radio transmissions. The reason for this conversation, in which Britain’s Signals Intelligence was discussed, was due to the ex-corporal’s disillusionment with his work there. Well the two journalists and the specop involved were arrested by Special Branch and charged with offences under S1 OSA as normally reserved for foreign spies.

The reason for my recollection was due to the included phrase, -- ‘technical issues surrounding the one important exhibit - the “restricted” document.’

The case to which I refer above is the so called ABC case. The restricted document phrase reminded me of one exhibit within the case that was presented by the prosecution, a photograph of the Post Office Tower [Now BT Tower] near Goodge Street London W1.

The actual image showed the tower from the base looking up and almost to the centre, at the point of interest, could be seen the three antenna galleries holding a variety of dishes and parabolic reflectors.

Apart from standard telecommunications links the tower was also part of “Backbone” designed to allow a continuation of communications should nuclear war erupt. As documented in a variety of books such as “War Plan UK” Duncan Campbell, [see here for a taster] and “Beneath the City Streets,” Peter Laurie. There may well have been a mention in Duncan Campbell’s “Unsinkable Aircraft Carrier: American Military Power in Britain” as well.

This photographic evidence was discounted on the production of a souvenir postcard bearing the same image.

The mention of Dr Meirion Francis Lewis and his evidence reminded me of “Colonel B” in this case [actually Colonel HA Johnstone] the main prosecution witness who received protests of his anonymity on 18th November 1977. He was, apparently, overall head of British army sigint and part of the intelligence staff at the MoD in London. But the trial judge, Mr Justice Willis had been a member of the Royal Corps of Signals too.

No doubt, that due to some of the evidence to be used by the prosecution, some members of the Jury expressed doubts about their signing of the OSA in connection with their jobs. The defence asked for some signs as to why and it became evident that three individuals would not view the trial sympathetically, and certainly not impartially. One had worked in the civil service, another a squadron security clerk in the army but the last had served in the SAS for some years. This ex SAS officer was the Foreman of the Jury having volunteered himself for the job. According to Crispin Aubrey’s account in “Who’s Watching You?” this ex SAS juror had made it clear that he had no doubt of the guilt of the defendants and spent much of his time persuading the other jurors around to his view.

The Trial referred to as the ABC trial after the commencing letters of the three defendants surnames ended with all receiving minor non-custodial sentences under S2 OSA on 17 November 1978.

More info via “Who’s Watching You?” Crispin Aubrey Penguin books 1981.

I wish you the best of luck with your quest.

Sal ibn Hari 260106

Many thanks to Sal ibn Hari for providing this comment, and if you want to contact him his e-mail address is: mukhabarat2003@yahoo.co.uk

I note that all the books mentioned about appear to be available on the Amazon website.

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