LONDON, July 4 (RAPSI) – The UK government has notified the senior judge leading the inquest into the death of poisoned ex-FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko, that it is unlikely to decide soon whether to replace the ongoing inquest with a public inquiry, a coroner's office representative told RIA Novosti on Wednesday.
A public inquiry would allow some sessions to be held behind closed doors, and would therefore be able to consider secret evidence. For this reason, Litvinenko's widow, Marina, has urged the UK government to opt for a public inquiry.
The government was expected to announce its decision on a public enquiry on July 3. However, Owen's representative said the temporary coroner had been informed of the government's inability to take the decision by the date.
A Home Office representative previously said the government was considering coroner Sir Robert Owen's request for a public inquiry and would announce its decision as soon as it is made.
The Foreign Office declined to comment.
The Litvinenko inquest was halted in May when Owen ruled against the disclosure of important documents related to the potential involvement of the Russian state in Litvinenko's death, “which could cause real harm to the UK’s international relations.”
Owen said that meant he could not hold a full and fair investigation into the death, and wrote to Justice Secretary Chris Grayling to ask for a public inquiry instead.
The High Court's next hearing in the Litvinenko inquest is scheduled for July 12 and is expected to focus on the issue of public inquiry.
Litvinenko, 43, a former FSB officer who fled to the UK in 2000, was allegedly poisoned by radioactive Polonium-210 while drinking tea during a meeting with former security colleagues at the Millennium Hotel in Grosvenor Square in November 2006.
He died three weeks later in London’s University College Hospital. Former FSB officers Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun have been identified by the British as the prime suspects, but both deny any involvement.
Lugovoi said in March he would no longer cooperate with Britain over the enquiry into Litvinenko’s death, claiming he could not get justice as details of the case were being kept secret.