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London court rules to keep Litvinenko case materials secret

November 27, 2013, 22:30 UTC+3 LONDON
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LONDON, November 27, (ITAR-TASS). London’s High Court on Wednesday, November 27, ruled against disclosing some of the materials in the case of former Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officer Alexander Litvinenko as had been requested by Robert Owen, Assistant Coroner for the Inner North London District of Greater London, who is conducting the inquest into his death in 2006.

The High Court issued its ruling after Foreign Secretary William Hague’s appeal against Owen’s request, in which the former insisted that classified materials remain undisclosed.

On February 7, 2013, Hague, who oversees the British security services, sent a note to Owen, stating that disclosing secret information in the Litvinenko inquest would be unacceptable and detrimental to British interests.

Having studied the note, Owen on May 17 supported it in part, but said that the other materials should be made public for the sake of fair and complete inquest.

However the government opposed Owen’s position and succeeded in getting it overruled by the High Court, saying that the documents the assistant coroner had sought to make public were highly sensitive and their disclosure could impair national security.

Initially, the inquest proper was supposed to begin on May 1, but then was postponed by presiding Judge Robert Owen for almost six months because of a delay in various procedures, including the submission of certificates by the holders of the “interested party” status.

The first preliminary hearing regarding anonymity applications took place on March 14. It was stated during the hearing that some witnesses would like to testify in court on condition of anonymity. Some of them have yet to be determined and no decisions on the matter have made so far.

Interested parties to the process include Maria Litvinenko and her son Anatoly, entrepreneur Boris Berezovsky (the court intends to look into his possible role in Litvinenko’s death), Russian MP Andrei Lugovoi (who the British authorities claim to be a suspect in the case and who flatly denies any such charges), Metropolitan police, and the British Foreign Office.

The coroner’s court has also published a provisional list of questions to be examined during the pre-inquest hearings. These include different aspects and circumstances of Litvinenko’s life in Russia and then in Britain, post mortem and toxicology evidence, and responsibility for his death.

The inquest said earlier it might look into the involvement of Litvinenko’s late friend Boris Berezovsky and groups connected with Chechens and the Spanish Mafia. The court may also consider different leads as Litvinenko’s suicide and the infliction of death by negligence.

The lawyer of Litvinenko’s wife Marina said earlier that her defendant did not like assumptions that her husband might have committed suicide or died as a result of some accident. Marina believes these leads have no foundation but she is prepared for a situation where they will be considered in court.

It’s a coroner's duty to find out if the death of a person has constituent elements of offence. After that, the coroner decided whether the case should be submitted for judicial inquiry.

Litvinenko died of polonium 210 poisoning at a London hospital in November 2006.

British investigators consider Russian MP Andrei Lugovoi to be the main suspect in the case, but he flatly denies all charges.

Lugovoi is incriminated in Litvinenko's death in Britain.

The British authorities claim that Lugovoi is responsible for Litvinenko’s death.

The next Pre-Inquest Review hearing is scheduled for November 29. “The purpose of the hearing on 29 November is to assist Sir Robert to prepare for an Inquest in the event that there is no Public Inquiry,” the note on the Inquest’s official website said.

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