Litvinenko UK inquest in doubt after Russia evidence ruling

17th May 2013, Comments 0 comments

The inquest into the death of Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko in Britain was close to being scrapped after the coroner ruled Friday he could not hear evidence about the alleged role of the Russian state in his poisoning.

Coroner Robert Owen said in a pre-hearing ruling that in disregarding the evidence for national security reasons, he would be failing in his duty "to undertake a full, fair and fearless inquiry into the circumstances of Mr Litvinenko's death".

He suggested that the death could instead be considered in a public inquiry in which the evidence alleging Russian state involvement "could be taken into account".

British Foreign Secretary William Hague has sought to prevent some information regarding Litvinenko's death from being revealed during the inquest, which is due to start later this year.

Litvinenko, 43, suffered a slow and agonising death after he was poisoned with radioactive polonium-210 after drinking tea at an upmarket London hotel in 2006.

It is thought that he was working for Britain's MI6 intelligence service at the time and his family believe he was killed on the orders of the Kremlin.

British police have sought the arrest of two Russian nationals in relation to the death -- Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun -- but the Russian authorities have refused to hand them over.

Under British law, evidence cannot be heard in secret as part of an inquest, but could be seen behind close doors as part of a public inquiry.

© 2013 AFP

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