THERE's been widespread anger after former diplomat and independence blogger Craig Murray was sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment yesterday following his conviction for contempt of court over his reporting of the Alex Salmond trial.

Murray watched two days of the former first minister’s trial in March 2020 from the public gallery of the High Court in Edinburgh, and wrote about it on his website.

Judges later ruled the 62-year-old was in contempt of court, as his coverage led to “jigsaw identification” of complainers who made allegations against Salmond, who was acquitted of all charges in March last year.

Global figures have rallied to support the former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan.

Writer and journalist John Pilger said: “In these dark times, Craig Murray's truth-telling is a beacon.

“He is owed our debt of gratitude, not the travesty of a prison sentence which, like the prosecution of Julian Assange, is a universal warning.”

READ MORE: Craig Murray: Judges urged not to jail diplomat for Alex Salmond trial coverage

Linguist, philosopher and political activist, Professor Noam Chomsky said: “Craig Murray has compiled a remarkable record of courage and integrity in exposing crimes of state and working to bring them to an end. He fully merits our deep respect and support for his achievements.”

Sentencing Murray at a virtual hearing yesterday, Lady Dorrian said he knew there were court orders giving the women anonymity and he was “relishing” the potential disclosure of their identities.

The Lord Justice Clerk said he had deliberately risked jigsaw identification and that revealing complainers’ identities was “abhorrent”.

Murray’s offending blog posts and tweets were written over a month and remained online, unredacted, despite him being told they could potentially lead to the identification of women who had made complaints about Salmond.

Dorrian said: “It appears from the posts and articles that he was in fact relishing the task he set himself, which was essentially to allow the identities of complainers to be discerned – which he thought was in the public interest – in a way which did not attract sanction.

“These actions create a real risk that complainers may be reluctant to come forward in future cases, particularly where the case may be high profile or likely to attract significant publicity.

“The actions strike at the heart of the fair administration of justice.

“Notwithstanding the previous character of the respondent and his health issues, we do not think we can dispose of this case other than by way of a sentence of imprisonment.”

Murray was initially given 48 hours to hand himself in to a police station, but after a challenge by his lawyer Roddy Dunlop QC, this was extended to three weeks to allow him to appeal against the sentence, although Murray must surrender his passport.

Dunlop said sending Murray to prison would be “harsh to the point of being disproportionate”, and urged judges to deal with the case by way of a fine.

READ MORE: Craig Murray formally told he's being held in contempt of court over Salmond trial reports

“Allowing that the finding of contempt has been ruled by this court to be justified, the question is whether, given all the circumstances, that justification extends yet further to countenancing imprisonment, to taking a retired diplomat with an exemplary background away from his wife, his 11-year-old son, and his baby,” said Dunlop.

“For what purpose? The response might well be pour decourager les autres (French for to discourage others). If that is the purpose, job done. Mr Murray’s blogging is inevitably hamstrung by the ruling itself, the decision is and has been widely publicised.

“If anyone out there thinks that playing with fire in the field of jigsaw identification is a zero sum game, their views have been disabused by the ruling this court has already made.”

The National:

MP Kenny MacAskill (above), Scotland’s former justice secretary, who is also a lawyer said: “This is a sad day for Scottish Justice. The idea that all problems emanate from Westminster is absurd.

“There are deep rooted structures and historic inequalities that scar Scotland. They require changed and that cannot await independence, especially when those legal structures are already devolved.”

Among the tsunami of support shown online for Murray was a tweet from James Kelly, which read: “I am shocked to the core at this. The Scottish justice system is discrediting itself before our eyes. Even those who tried to justify the conviction must acknowledge there needs to be proportionality in sentencing.”