UK refuses to hold public inquiry into Litvinenko poisoning

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 12, 2013 6:37 AM
UK refuses to hold public inquiry into Litvinenko poisoning

LONDON (Reuters) - A coroner said on Friday that the British government had turned down his request to hold a public inquiry into the murder of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.

Coroner Robert Owen made the request after declaring his own investigation was flawed because it could not examine whether Moscow was behind the killing.

Litvinenko, 43, died after drinking tea poisoned with a rare radioactive isotope in a plush London hotel, and from his deathbed he accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of ordering his murder, a charge Russia has repeatedly denied.

Owen, a senior judge acting as coroner, told a pre-inquest hearing at London's High Court on Friday he had been told just 45 minutes earlier that the government had rejected his request for a public inquiry.

In a letter to the government last month, Owen said: "I have formed the firm view that such an inquiry is necessary if Mr Litvinenko's death is to be properly investigated.

"For the avoidance of doubt, I should say that I regard investigation of the 'preventability' and 'Russian State responsibility' issues as being of central importance in this case."

In May, Owen had bowed to government demands to keep secret information that, if aired at an inquest, could undermine trust in the British government or "cause real harm to the UK's international relations".

(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison)