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British coroner’s court to hold hearings in Litvinenko case

March 14, 2013, 13:24 UTC+3

The death of Mr Litvinenko, a Russian security officer living in London, led to a major diplomatic incident

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LONDON, March 14 (Itar-Tass) – The British coroner’s court will hold in the High Court in London on Thursday the next preliminary hearings in the case of the death in 2006 of Alexander Litvinenko. This time they will focus on the study of “some requests for anonymity of witnesses,” as well as further schedule of the inquest the main part of which is expected to be opened later this year. Thursday’s meeting is to begin at 14:30 MSK.

The death of Mr Litvinenko, a Russian security officer living in London, led to a major diplomatic incident as the Kremlin was accused of masterminding his murder. British prosecutors named Mr Lugovoi as the main suspect but he was later elected as a Russian MP and Moscow refused to send him to the UK for questioning. He has denied involvement.

The Litvinenko Inquest is an impartial fact finding exercise into the death of Alexander Litvinenko. It is led by Her Majesty’s Assistant Deputy Coroner for Inner North London, Sir Robert Owen, a Judge of the High Court of England and Wales.

The hearings will be held by Judge Robert Owen without the legal representatives of Andrei Lugovoi. The Russian State Duma member on Tuesday withdrew from the proceedings in the UK at which he had the status of an interested party. Lugovoi’s decision was made after a review meeting of the coroner’s court on February 26-27, when Owen after studying the request of British Foreign Secretary William Hague to classify some of the evidence in the case decided to hold a series of closed-door hearings.

The situation with the request of the head of the UK Foreign Office and the decision of Owen who did not classify any document, but did not preclude that not all the evidence might be disclosed, evoked a wide response in the UK. The local media groups even sent to the court the lawyer who represented the interests of the media and insisted on the maximum openness of the hearings. This position was expressed by the majority of the stakeholders.

The British Foreign Office, its press service told Itar-Tass, believes there is no need in giving any comments on the decision of Lugovoi on the withdrawal from the Litvinenko case. The UK Foreign Office’s position is that the refusal of Mr Lugovoi to participate in the proceedings is within the competence of the coroner in charge of the proceedings, a spokesman for the Foreign Office said.

Alexander Litvinenko, 43, fell ill shortly after drinking tea during a meeting at a West End hotel with Mr Lugovoi and another Russian agent. Three weeks later, on 23 November 2006, he died of radioactive polonium-210 poisoning in London’s University College Hospital.


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