Secrecy battle forces new delay in Alexander Litvinenko case

 

Procrastination, attempts to keep evidence secret and shield the identity of witnesses has led to yet another long delay before the inquiry into Alexander Litvinenko's death can start.

More than six years after the former KGB agent was poisoned to death, a pre-inquest hearing was told that it would be postponed from May until October this year.

Addressing his widow Marina, who has patiently endured each delay without complaint, Sir Robert Owen, assistant deputy coroner, said: “I am acutely conscious that it will come as a great disappointed to you for this matter to be deferred for a further five months. I hope you will understand it is motivated solely by my determination to carry out the fullest investigation into the circumstances of your husband's death.”

After the hearing, Mrs Litvinenko said she was unsurprised, adding: “I still believe in British justice.”

The hearing was told by counsel to the inquest, Robin Tam QC, that it would be unrealistic to start in two months as a host of evidence had yet to be disclosed.

He said it was a source of frustration that some Government departments, despite being asked for documents last January, only began searching ten months later. As a consequence that evidence, with further requests anticipated, would not be ready until the end of July.

Furthermore, the inquiry team has yet to receive all the documentation from the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, which only asked to take part in the proceedings at the last minute.

Matters are complicated further by the fact the Government has attempted to have an array of documents kept secret from the inquest under Public Interest Immunity (PII), claiming the details pose a “real risk of serious harm to the public interest”, a matter that is being considered in private by Sir Robert.

Furthermore both Scotland Yard and the Atomic Weapons Establishment have yet to finalise lists of witnesses to whom they wish to be granted anonymity.

Mr Litvinenko, 43, died of polonium-210 poisoning in November 2006 after meeting two former KGB contacts - Andrei Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun - at the Millennium Hotel in London's Grosvenor Square.

British prosecutors named Mr Lugovoy as the main suspect in the case but Russia has refused to extradite him to the UK for questioning.

At a previous pre-hearing into his death Ben Emmerson QC, representing Mrs Litvinenko, said there was clear evidence that her late husband was a MI6 agent and that Mr Lugovoy was acting under instruction from the Kremlin.

The hearing was told that Mr Lugovoy announced at a press conference on Monday that he was pulling out as an “interested party” to the inquest because he had no faith in its impartiality and could not defend himself against evidence heard in secret.

Sir Robert, pointing out that any evidence excluded under PII would be dismissed altogether and not considered in secret, said the Russian was “labouring under a misapprehension”.

He added: “It appears he does not understand the independence of the judiciary is a concept fundamental to the rule of law in the UK”

Outside court Mr Litvinenko's friend Alexander Goldfarb, added: “People should not forget Mr Lugovoy is not just a regular party to this inquest. He is the man who has been accused of murder. He has not only been accused of murder but he has refused to come here and face justice.”

He continued: “He has familiarised himself with the contents of the (Metropolitan) police file (though inquest disclosure). As an interested party he has actually seen the evidence against him so his decision to pull out might be seen in this context.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
health
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
News
Sir Chris Hoy won six Olympic golds - in which four events?
news
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
News
Lars Ulrich of Metallica performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people
Arts and Entertainment
film
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Extras
indybest
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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 General

Associate Recruitment Consultant - IT

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: Computer Futures has been est...

IT Technician (1st/2nd line support) - Leatherhead, Surrey

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Technician (1st/2nd line support)...

Business Analyst

£300 - £350 per day: Orgtel: Job Title: Business Analyst Rate: £300 - £350 per...

C# .NET Developer

£290 - £291 per day + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Manchester C#.NET ...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform