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UK Coroner Rules to Keep Crucial Litvinenko Evidence Secret

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The British coroner heading the inquest into the 2006 death of former Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) agent Alexander Litvinenko has reluctantly upheld an application to keep crucial evidence in the case secret, British media said on Friday.

LONDON, May 17 (RIA Novosti) - The British coroner heading the inquest into the 2006 death of former Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) agent Alexander Litvinenko has reluctantly upheld an application to keep crucial evidence in the case secret, British media said on Friday.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has sought to exclude from the inquest material concerning the involvement of Russian state agencies, and also secret evidence on whether the UK's security and intelligence services could have prevented the murder.

Coroner Sir Robert Owen said the inquest could not accept the open evidence while disregarding evidence classified on grounds of national security.

"My provisional view is that to entertain these issues on the basis of the available open evidence, but to disregard the [national security] evidence... would be to fail to discharge my duty to undertake a full, fair and fearless inquiry into the circumstances of Mr Litvinenko's death,” Owen said in a judgment published on Friday afternoon.

"The same could be said of a decision to remove the issues from scope. But the better course is arguably not to address the issues at all rather than to do so an incomplete, inadequate and potentially misleading basis," he said.

Litvinenko, a 43-year-old former FSB officer, turned critic of the Kremlin and moved from Russia to Britain in 2000 where he claimed asylum. He was poisoned with the toxic radioactive isotope Polonium-210 in London in 2006, days after he was granted UK citizenship.

The British authorities said they wanted to question two former Russian FSB agents, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, about Lugovoi's death.

Lugovoi said in March he was cutting off links with the inquest as he doubted the impartiality of the investigation.

 

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