Feb 27 2013
Sensitive evidence alleged to expose poisoned spy Alexander Litvinenko's ties to MI6 will be examined in secret, a coroner has ruled.
Lawyers for the former KGB agent's family believe the files may contain the key to his assassination in London in November 2006.
His widow Marina has spoken of her disappointment that such material was still being shrouded in secrecy amid claims the Government planned to "suppress" evidence to protect relations with Russia.
Mr Litvinenko, 43, was poisoned with polonium-210 while drinking tea at the Millennium Hotel in London's Grosvenor Square.
His family believes he was working for MI6 at the time and was killed on the orders of the Kremlin. They have urged the Government to reveal documents which they believe would support this theory. But Foreign Secretary William Hague has argued the disclosure of certain files relating to the case could pose a risk to national security.
Coroner Sir Robert Owen has told a pre-inquest review, at London's Royal Courts of Justice, he would consider a selection of that evidence in private, giving Mr Hague's application the "most stringent and critical examination".
He assured interested parties he would carry out a "full, fearless and open investigation into the circumstances of Mr Litvinenko's death".
Speaking after his ruling, Mrs Litvinenko said: "It isn't an ideal decision for us but it could have been worse", before adding: "I have to trust the coroner, I must trust him, I have no option. I believe he will do exactly what he says."
The nature of the evidence contained with files remains unclear but lawyers for the Litvinenko family claim the documents could point towards Russian state involvement.
The inquest was due to formally open on May 1, more than six years after Mr Litvinenko, 43, was killed. Former KGB agents Andrei Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun have been accused of his murder. Prosecutors named Lugovoy as the main suspect in the case but Russia has refused to extradite him to the UK for questioning. Both men deny involvement.