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Litvinenko inquest may examine lack of British protection

04 november 2012, 18:35
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Marina Litvinenko leaves a hearing into the death of her husband, Alexander Litvinenko, in London. ©REUTERS
Marina Litvinenko leaves a hearing into the death of her husband, Alexander Litvinenko, in London. ©REUTERS
The inquest into the radioactive poisoning of Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko will look at the possible culpability of the British state in failing to protect him, AFP reports according to the lawyer.

A hearing ahead of the opening of the inquest next year was told that Russia's FSB security service and British spy agency MI6 could become interested parties to the inquest, a status enabling them to ask witnesses questions.

British police have identified Andrei Lugovoi, a former FSB agent, as the main suspect in Litvinenko's agonising death from the highly radioactive Polonium-210 in London in November 2006.

Moscow has refused to extradite him and the case has chilled relations between Britain and Russia.

At Friday's hearing in London, lawyer Hugh Davies said the probe could look at Russia's role but also at that played by the British state, according to a transcript released afterwards.

It could examine "(a) the possible culpability of the Russian state in the death of Alexander Litvinenko; and/or (b) the possible culpability of the British state in the death of Alexander Litvinenko, either (i) in itself carrying out (by its servants or agents) the poisoning; or (ii) in failing to take reasonable steps to protect Mr Litvinenko from a real and immediate risk to his life", Davies said. He did not elaborate further.

A spokeswoman for the inquest, however, told AFP the transcript should not be taken to suggest that it would examine the possibility that British spies carried out the poisoning.

Davies said there were a "number of competing and increasingly controversial theories" surrounding the death, saying the inquest could also consider involvement of Litvinenko's friend Boris Berezovsky, Chechen-related groups and the Spanish mafia.

He added that the Russian state had been invited since January to become an "interested party" in the inquest, but had not yet taken up the offer.

Maya Sikand, addressing the hearing on behalf of Litvinenko's widow Marina, said if the Russian state could not become an interested party, then it was possible the FSB could.

"It may be that what should also be considered is whether MI6 should be invited to either apply or be so designated," she added.

Another hearing would take place in December to clarify the scope of the inquest.

Inquests are fact-finding inquiries held under British law to examine sudden, violent or unexplained deaths. They are not trials and do not apportion criminal or civil liability.

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