Independent challenges secrecy at inquest into death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko


A state order to withhold sensitive evidence from the inquest into Alexander Litvinenko’s death on national security grounds will be challenged by media organisations including The Independent tomorrow.

Confirmation and details of the late Russian’s widely suspected involvement with British intelligence services are thought to be among the documents that Foreign Secretary William Hague believes will strain the UK’s international relations if they became public.

Newspapers are attempting to force the disclosure of the evidence concerning Mr Litvinenko, a former Russian spy who police believe was murdered in London in 2006 through radiation poisoning from exposure to polonium.

The hearing examining the circumstances of his death will begin in May, looking into claims that Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun were part of a Russian state plot to kill him. Moscow has refused British requests to extradite both men for questioning.

The Foreign Office claims it is acting in its “duty to protect national security”. But the press will today attempt to convince the coroner, Sir Robert Owen, that public confidence in the inquest will be undermined by the Government’s application for “public interest immunity”, which has also prevented Mr Litvinenko’s family from discovering what the evidence concerns.