Barclay brothers sue Birt for slander

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The Barclay twins, owners of the Ritz hotel and the Scotsman and European newspapers, are suing John Birt, director-general of the BBC, in a French court for "public slander".

David and Frederick Barclay claim that an interview with the Observer journalist John Sweeney, broadcast by BBC Radio Guernsey and picked up in France, alleged they had "engaged in acts that could be qualified as corruption".

The brothers are suing for public slander under French law and for libel in Britain. They are also suing the Observer, which is circulated in France, and Mr Sweeney in a Paris court over an article in the paper which allegedly infringed their privacy.