May 20 2013 Latest news:
Thursday, September 20, 2012
Parts of a police report on whether Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned and died in London, had contact with the British intelligence service before he died will be kept secret at the government’s request, it emerged today.
The Metropolitan Police investigated whether Mr Litvinenko was in touch with MI6 prior to his death in November 2006, a pre-inquest review hearing was told today.
Counsel for the inquest Hugh Davies said the contents of the police report are known to his team and to the coroner, Sir Robert Owen.
However, they will not be disclosed to the other interested parties represented at the inquest, at the request of the government.
Mr Davies said: “Claims have been made to the effect that Mr Litvinenko had contact with British intelligence service prior to his death. As part of its investigation, the Metropolitan Police Service made an inquiry into these claims.
“Pending the outcome of the disclosure exercise currently under way, the product of these inquiries which are known to you sir, and counsel and solicitors to the inquest, has been redacted from the report at the request of Her Majesty’s Government.
“This redaction, of course, should not be taken as indicating one way or the other whether Mr Litvinenko did indeed have any such contact.”
Mr Litvinenko, 43, was poisoned with polonium-210 while drinking tea at a meeting, allegedly with two Russians - former KGB contacts Andrei Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun - at the Millennium Hotel in London’s Grosvenor Square.
At the start of today’s hearing, held to establish how the inquest will be conducted, Sir Robert said: “It has been almost six years since his death in November 2006. Such a delay is regrettable.
“There will be no further delay. It is manifestly in the interests of the interested persons, in particular his widow Marina Litvinenko and his son Anatoli Litvinenko, of the other interested persons and in the wider public interest that the inquest is brought to a conclusion with due expedition.
“It’s my intention to commence the substantive hearings at the first practicable opportunity as early in 2013 as is consistent with the completion of the necessary preparatory steps.”
Any redactions in evidence - where certain material is blacked out - will be approved by the coroner in advance, the hearing was told, and the police report is expected to be given to interested parties in the next two weeks.
Ben Emmerson QC, for Mrs Litvinenko, said: “She is grateful to hear that it’s to be disclosed within two weeks. She is nevertheless keen that the significance of all the evidence, including that which is redacted, is in one way or another fairly and independently evaluated and that as much as is possible should be made public, in the interests of ensuring not just a complete inquiry but a conclusion and deliberation which is internationally and nationally a credible one made on the circumstances of her husband’s death and the reasons for it.”
He said the spy’s widow wants to know whether her husband’s death was “a targeted assassination of a British citizen committed by agents of a foreign state in the sovereign territory of the United Kingdom”.
If this were proved to be the case, it would amount to “state-sponsored nuclear terrorism on the streets of London”, he said.
Other interested parties include Mr Lugovoy, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Metropolitan Police.
The Home Secretary was today also given status as an interested party.
The next preparatory hearings for the inquest will take place on November 2 and December 13 and 14.