Radiation murder libel payout for Boris Berezovsky

Boris Berezovsky won £150,000 High Court libel damages today over claims on a Russian TV broadcast about the radiation poisoning murder of Alexander Litvinenko.

The 63-year-old Russian businessman, who was granted political asylum in the UK in September 2003, had sued over an April 2007 broadcast on the state-owned TV channel RTR Planeta, which is available by satellite in the UK.



During the hearing in London, Mr Justice Eady heard that the Russian Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (RTR), which has never suggested that what it broadcast was true, had declined to take part in the proceedings.



It left Vladimir Terluk, who Mr Berezovsky alleged was the silhouetted figure called Pyotr featured in the programme, "to face the music on his own", unrepresented by lawyers.



The judge, who tried the case without a jury, said: "I can say unequivocally that there is no evidence before me that Mr Berezovsky had any part in the murder of Mr Litvinenko. Nor, for that matter, do I see any basis for reasonable grounds to suspect him of it."



The court had heard that the cornerstone of the programme as a whole was to accuse Mr Berezovsky of the 2006 London murder of Mr Litvinenko.



The motive was said to be that Mr Litvinenko was a witness to a conspiracy in 2003 to avoid Mr Berezovsky's extradition and to obtain his political asylum by procuring false evidence from Mr Terluk that there was an FSB security service plot to kill Mr Berezovsky.



It was said on the programme that Mr Berezovsky had been party to threats to Mr Terluk's life.



The judge rejected Mr Terluk's claim that the alleged plot to procure from him false evidence was true, saying: "I am driven to conclude that the central allegation that is directly attributable to Mr Terluk in the programme is false."



He concluded: "I see no evidence at all of any risk to Mr Terluk's safety and welfare originating with Mr Berezovsky or his entourage."



He said the allegation was calculated to put Mr Berezovsky's refugee status at risk.









Mr Berezovsky, who now lives in Surrey, had told the court that Mr Litvinenko, whom he knew as Sasha, had twice saved his life, and their shared history as exiles and opponents of President Vladimir Putin and the FSB had cemented their friendship.

He said he was concerned about the damage which the "absolutely outrageous" allegation would cause to his reputation.



After the ruling, he said: "I have no doubt that, in making this programme, the purpose of RTR and the Russian authorities was to undermine my asylum status in the UK and to put the investigation of Sasha Litvinenko's murder on the wrong track.



"I am pleased that the court, through its judgment, has unequivocally demolished RTR's claims.



"I trust the conclusions of the British investigators that the trail leads to Russia, and I hope that one day justice will prevail."



Both RTR and Mr Terluk, who denied in court that he was Pyotr and pleaded justification, are jointly liable for the damages.



The judge said there were likely to be formidable obstacles in recovering the money.



"This may indeed be a matter of only peripheral interest to Mr Berezovsky. I doubt that he brought the proceedings to make money. It will be for him to decide whether it is worthwhile to attempt to enforce the award."



Although RTR was responsible for the content of the programme as a whole, the judge found that Mr Terluk was not personally responsible for any allegation that Mr Berezovsky was implicated in Mr Litvinenko's murder.



The judge said the award would have been higher if he was also compensating for the equally unfounded allegation that Mr Berezovsky was responsible.









In his ruling, Mr Justice Eady said that the programme, Vesti Nedeli - the equivalent of BBC's Newsnight - was probably seen by thousands in the UK.

He said that he had "no doubt" that Pyotr was indeed Mr Terluk.



He added: "It would be unreal to ignore the fact that, in the eyes of many people, including Russian speakers living in this country, Mr Berezovsky has acquired the reputation of a criminal on the run from Russian justice.



"He has been sentenced to 13 years imprisonment in his absence.



"On the other hand, he is seen by others as a political dissident who is working for justice and democratisation. Many see the criminal proceedings against him as politically motivated.



"It is not for me to take sides in that wider debate. I need to focus only upon the specific issues raised in this litigation. I merely recognise the realities.



"He does not have a settled 'general bad reputation'. There are contrasting views. None of this means that he is deprived of the right to sue these defendants in respect of the broadcast and, if successful, to recover damages by way of vindication."



He concluded that the allegation was serious and had gone uncorrected for about three years.



"Obviously, many people have fixed views about Mr Berezovsky and most will not change them as a result of this judgment.



"He is nevertheless entitled to his remedy as reflecting the court's clear and unequivocal finding, on the evidence, that the relevant allegations are false."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose' in memoir of a grief-stricken daughter who became obsessed with training a goshawk
Sport
footballLive blog: Follow the action from the Capital One Cup semi-final
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Business Relationship Manager

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Business Relationship Manager - Enfield, North Lond...

Recruitment Genius: Online Customer Service Advisor

£13000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A chance to work for an extreme...

Sauce Recruitment: Partnership Sales Executive - TV

competitive + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: An award-winning global multi-media...

Sauce Recruitment: Account Director

£26017.21 - £32521.19 per annum + OTE $90,000: Sauce Recruitment: My client is...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy