British MPs summon Murdochs over hacking scandal

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British lawmakers Thursday formally summoned Rupert Murdoch and his son James after they refused to testify next week, while News International boss Rebekah Brooks has agreed to appear, a statement said.

Parliament's media committee "has this morning decided to summon Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch to appear before the Select Committee in Parliament at 2.30pm on Tuesday 19 July 2011," the commitee said in a statement.

Brooks, the head of Murdoch's British newspaper publishing arm, "has accepted the invitation to appear before the Committee next week," it said.

"Rupert Murdoch has indicated he is unable to attend to give evidence, and James Murdoch has indicated he is unable to attend on the specified date but offered to appear at an alternative date, the earliest of which was August 10th."

Amid the growing phone-hacking scandal that prompted the closure of the Murdoch-owned News of the World tabloid at the weekend, the committee had initially invited the three executives to testify to the committee.

But issuing the formal summons goes a step further and makes clear the lawmakers' determination to compel them to give evidence.

"All three should appear to account for the behaviour of News International and for previous statements made to the Committee in Parliament, now acknowledged to be false," said Thursday's statement.

In his reply to the committee's invitation, Rupert Murdoch, 80, said he was not available for Tuesday's session but offered to give evidence to a judge-led inquiry set up by the government in the wake of the scandal.

"Unfortunately, I am not available to attend the session you have planned next Tuesday," said Murdoch, in his reply which was released by the committee.

"However, I am fully prepared to give evidence to the forthcoming judge-led public inquiry and I will be taking steps to notify those conducting the inquiry of my willingness to do so."

The News of the World phone-hacking scandal erupted into a national controversy last week amid allegations the paper used private investigators to hack the phones of a murdered teenager and relatives of war veterans.

© 2011 AFP

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