Murder charge to be brought in Litvinenko death

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The United Kingdom Crown Prosecution Service has announced that it has sufficient evidence that a former FSB (formerly KGB) officer should be charged with the murder last year of Alexander Litvinenko.

Andrei Lugovoi is charged with the murder of Mr Litvinenko, by the administration of the highly radioactive Polonium-210 in a hotel in Mayfair, London, on 1st November 2006. Mr Litvinenko, 43, died of radiation sickness in University College Hospital on 23rd November. The case received considerable publicity at the time, with pictures of Litvinenko in hospital and showing the effects of the radiation poisoning.

Litvinenko was himself a former Russian FSB agent and was a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He had tried to publish a book in Russia describing Putin's rise to power as having been organised by the KGB. He was forced to flee from Russia and had lived for some time in London, being granted British citizenship in October 2006.

He continued his dissent throughout the remainder of his life, culminating in a posthumous statement published on 24th November 2006 alleging that Putin was responsible for his death.

Investigation and charge

I have today concluded that the evidence sent to us by the police is sufficient to charge Andrey Lugovoy with the murder of Mr Litvinenko by deliberate poisoning

—Sir Ken Macdonald, CPS

Litvinenko's murder led to a lengthy investigation by the Metropolitan Police Service and additional specialist police forces following a trail of sites which had been contaminated with radiation, leading eventually to Moscow. A file of evidence was sent in January 2007 to the Crown Prosecution Service for consideration as to whether any criminal charges might be brought.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Ken Macdonald, QC, in announcing the decision to prosecute, said: "Prosecutors from CPS Counter Terrorism Division have carefully considered the material contained in that police file. They have also asked the police to carry out further inquiries, which are now complete. And, finally, they have consulted with me."

"I have today concluded that the evidence sent to us by the police is sufficient to charge Andrey Lugovoy with the murder of Mr Litvinenko by deliberate poisoning. I have further concluded that a prosecution of this case would clearly be in the public interest."

"In those circumstances, I have instructed CPS lawyers to take immediate steps to seek the early extradition of Andrey Lugovoy from Russia to the United Kingdom, so that he may be charged with murder - and be brought swiftly before a court in London to be prosecuted for this extraordinarily grave crime."

Extradition unlikely

The announcement followed the summoning of the Russian Ambassador to London to the Foreign Office to be told by Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett that she expected that the Russian authorities would co-operate fully with Britain to arrange the extradition of Mr Lugovoi to stand trial in London. However there are indications from Moscow that the extradition of Lugovoi, who denies any involvement in the murder, is unlikely to happen. Marina Gridneva, spokeswoman for the Russian Prosecutor General's Office said that "under Russian law, a citizen of the Russian Federation cannot be handed over to a foreign country".

There is no bilateral extradition treaty between Russia and the UK. Legislation passed by Russia to deal with individual requests from countries in Europe rules out the extradition of its citizens, even to the extent that when in 1966 it became a signatory to the European convention on extradition, it granted itself an exemption from such a course.

However it has been reported that such a ban on extradition would not necessarily prevent Lugovoi being tried in Russia using evidence from the UK.


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UK Crown Prosecution Service