Coroner calls for public inquiry into Litvinenko's death
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LONDON, June 6 (RAPSI) - Sir Robert Owen, the coroner overseeing the investigation into the death of the Russian FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko has urged the British Ministry of Justice to start a public inquiry into his death, his office told RIA Novosti on Wednesday.
Owen ruled in May that testimony regarding the possibility that Litvinenko's death could have been prevented, as well as the Russian authorities' alleged involvement in the killing, could not be considered in the inquest due to its classified nature.
However, without taking this evidence into account, the inquest may result in an "incomplete, misleading and unfair verdict," Owen said, adding that he was considering to ask for the coroner's inquest to be replaced by a public inquiry.
A public inquiry would permit the coroner to make public the evidence classified by the British intelligence service, hence Litvinenko's widow, Marina Litvinenko, has also expressed strong support for this proceeding.
However, Robert Brown, a criminal law expert with the Corker Binning law firm, earlier told RIA Novosti that public inquiry rules still allow for part of the evidence to be kept secret. The decision to make certain facts public is taken by the judge in charge of the public inquiry. Whether a public inquiry will be held will be decided by the government.
A coroner's inquest was formally opened after Litvinenko's death in 2006 to uncover the reason for and the circumstances surrounding his death, as opposed to punish the individuals responsible. It was resumed in late 2012 when it became clear that there would be no criminal investigation.
Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB agent, defected to the UK in 2000. He died in 2006 shortly after meeting with former colleague Andrei Lugovoi in London's Millennium Hotel. It was announced soon afterwards that Litvinenko was poisoned with highly radioactive polonium-210, traces of which was found in his body.
Andrei Lugovoi, a Russian businessman and lawmaker, is the main suspect in Litvinenko's death. However, Lugovoi has denied the accusations, claiming they are politically motivated.