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Legal bid for Litvinenko inquiry

The widow of poisoned spy Alexander Litvinenko will today seek permission to bring a legal challenge over Home Secretary Theresa May's decision not to hold a public inquiry into the death.

Coroner Sir Robert Owen had requested that the Government order the inquiry because he could not consider vital secret evidence as part of a normal inquest.

Mr Litvinenko's widow Marina said she and her legal team were "shocked and disappointed" by the Government's refusal.

Mrs May indicated to Sir Robert that "international relations" had been a factor in the Government's decision-making but not a decisive one, and an inquest would be able to address "key concerns".

She said that an inquiry would take longer and cost more than a normal inquest, and that ministers could address any remaining concerns over Mr Litvinenko's death after legal proceedings had finished, possibly with an independent review.

Today Mrs Litvenko's lawyers are asking three judges at London's High Court - Lord Justice Goldring, Lord Justice Treacy and Mr Justice Mitting - for permission to challenge the legality of her decision in an application for judicial review.

Mr Litvinenko, 43, was poisoned with radioactive polonium-210 while drinking tea at the Millennium Hotel in London's Grosvenor Square in 2006.

Since his death his widow and son Anatoly have battled to discover the truth about what led to his killing.

Mrs May told Sir Robert the inquest would be able to address key concerns.

Sir Robert had ruled in May that he could not hear evidence at a normal inquest linked to the alleged involvement of the Russian state in Mr Litvinenko's death, or whether his killing could have been prevented, in public.

He said that excluding key evidence on the issue of Russian involvement would cause him ''grave concern''.

Mr Litvinenko's family believe he was working for MI6 at the time of his death and was killed on the orders of the Kremlin.

Elena Tsirlina, Mrs Litvinenko's solicitor, said the decision not to hold a public inquiry followed "months of talks between the two governments at the highest level" between the prime ministers of both Russia and Britain.

She said: "What deals have been made behind the scene is difficult to know."


From Belfast Telegraph