London bombings inquests to stay open to families: coroner

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A judge chairing the inquests into the deaths of 52 people in the 2005 London bombings dismissed Wednesday a bid by Britain's domestic intelligence agency MI5 to hold some hearings behind closed doors.

Lawyers for the security agency claimed that coroner Heather Hallett had the power to exclude bereaved families from sessions which would examine sensitive intelligence information.

"I am still hopeful that with full co-operation on all sides, most if not all of the relevant material can and will be put before me in such a way that national security is not threatened," Hallett said.

The coroner said the intelligence material could be edited to hide names of sources and other confidential information.

The attacks on a bus and three Underground trains on July 7, 2005 were carried out by suicide bombers Mohammed Sidique Khan, Shehzad Tanweer, Hasib Hussain and Jermaine Lindsay, claiming 52 lives.

Graham Foulkes, whose 22-year-old son David was among those killed, said he was "delighted" by the ruling.

"The security service have this 'get out of jail' card to trump all others when they say it's a matter of national security," he added.

Lawyers for the victims' families want to ask MI5 officers why Khan and Tanweer were not on their "radar" despite having being under surveillance 17 months earlier.

MI5 claimed it could not answer without disclosing secret information.

Hallett said she could exclude the public from hearings which examined sensitive intelligence but could not ban lawyers for the bereaved from attending.

The inquests began in October following a long campaign by families of the victims. They are expected to last five months.

© 2010 AFP

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