UK court quashes decision not to hold Litvinenko poisoning inquiry

LONDON Tue Feb 11, 2014 9:16am EST

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LONDON (Reuters) - The London High Court on Tuesday quashed a decision by the British government not to hold a public inquiry into the murder of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, who died in London in 2006 after being poisoned with a radioactive substance.

The court did not call for an inquiry to take place, but said that Home Secretary Theresa May, the interior minister, would have to reconsider the decision.

"If she is to maintain her refusal, she will need better reasons than those given in the decision letter," wrote Lord Justice Richards, handing down the unanimous judgment of three High Court justices who considered the issue.

A Home Office spokesman said: "We are carefully considering the judgment. The government continues to fully co-operate with the coroner's inquest into Mr Litvinenko's death." The inquest is separate from any public inquiry.

May said last July that she had taken into account the interests of Britain's relations with Russia in deciding not to order a public inquiry, but this had not been the main factor.

The Litvinenko poisoning has strained ties between London and Moscow for years. Relations deteriorated to a post-Cold War low after British police and prosecutors said there was enough evidence to charge two former KGB agents. Russia denies any role in the killing.

(Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; editing by Stephen Addison)

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