LONDON – Britain is seeking to withhold information about Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko at the forthcoming inquest into his death to avoid damaging trade deals with Moscow, a court was told Tuesday.
A preinquest hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice heard that Foreign Secretary William Hague had signed a public interest immunity certificate to prevent evidence relating to the case being placed in the public domain.
This was because disclosure risked “serious harm to the public interest,” Hague wrote in the document, which has been made public.
But almost a dozen media organizations, including the BBC and The Guardian newspaper, are challenging the certificate, as is Litvinenko’s widow, Marina.
The inquest is expected to examine the Russian state’s alleged involvement in Litvinenko’s death — which it denies — as well as that of the British state in failing to protect the dissident, who was also a British citizen.