09 February 2006

Mitrokhin Archive wrong about Portugal

I guess that celebrities, and those used to being in the public eye, are not fazed when they read things in the press about their lives that seem totally fictitious. Unfortunately, I have not grown accustomed to this state of affairs, and I still find it uncomfortable when I read stories about myself that I know to be completely false.

It was with great interest and concern that I read in The Mitrokhin Archive about the apparent ‘tests’ I had been subjected to by the KGB. The section I am referring to states that I was given a “third test … to remove a container holding two rolls of film from a DLB in the Paris suburbs and to deliver it to a KGB officer in Lisbon”. According to the chronology of the book, this incident is presumed to have happened in or after August in 1979. This alleged event is also clearly related to the so-called training mission, which was mentioned to me by the police in my interviews shortly after my arrest. The training mission played a crucial role in the case presented to the jury - in which my trip to Portugal had been compared to the trip made by Mr E under Viktor Oshchenko’s direction.

The significance of this passage in the Mitrokhin Archive is that the “training mission” in the prosecution case at my trial referred to my trip to Oporto in 1977, and the map of Oporto, a series of photographs taken by the police of places in Oporto, and evidence from Mr E, Mrs C and Gordievsky were all used to support that proposition.

Oshchenko has been quoted as saying that I had been asked to clear dead letter boxes in Oporto in 1977, and this was a place where the Russians in Portugal were prohibited from going. There had been no mention by Oshchenko that this operation had taken place in Lisbon. As Oshchenko was the man the prosecution claimed had sent me to Portugal, then I presume he should have known where he sent me!

The Mitrokhin Archive gives neither details about this alleged operation nor who I was supposed to have met in Lisbon. However, the important point for me, is that the prosecution at my trial claimed I was sent on a mission to Oporto in 1977 (to agree with the map), but the Mitrokhin Archive is claiming that this trip took place in 1979 and was to Lisbon. It would have proved useful to have had that evidence from the Mitrokhin Archive at my trial, because this would have exposed how the exhibits were forced to fit into a speculative story concocted by the prosecution.

I am sure the jury at my trial would have been surprised that the prosecution claims of a training mission to Oporto in 1977 were significantly different to the Mitrokhin Archive version that the destination was Lisbon in 1979 - about 300 kilometres apart in distance and 2 years in time!

There are no corresponding entries in this section of the book concerning the claimed operation in France that might support the Mitrokhin story. In statements from Oshchenko, he never claimed to have sent me on any mission to France in the 1970s. However, what Oshchenko said, and the police strenuously argued, was that Oshchenko planned to meet me in France in September 1991, a claim that was totally without foundation. This was another invention by the police because they had found an unused channel ferry ticket for a trip my wife and I had planned that month, but which was cancelled when she was in agony with a kidney stone.

Perhaps the most bizarre and funny fact, in this entire story about Portugal, is that I never went anywhere near France or Portugal in 1979. The only trip I made overseas in 1979 was a one week package holiday with my wife to Ibiza in Spain. I would love somebody to show me the evidence of any other trip I made to France, Portugal or anywhere else in 1979 - it just did not happen. So, I am afraid either Vasili Mitrokhin or Professor Christopher Andrew has fabricated that story. The weakness of the story is also highlighted by the fact that the Security Commission report (Cm 2930, July 1995) contains not one reference to this supposed Portuguese operation, despite the important role it played in leading to my conviction.