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Russian tycoon wins UK libel case
Boris Berezovsky awarded $225,000 over accusations he was behind former spy's death.
Last Modified: 10 Mar 2010 13:20 GMT
Alexander Litvinenko died in 2006 after being poisoned by radioactive polonium-210 [AFP]

Boris Berezkovsky, the exiled Russian oligarch living in the UK, has won a libel case against a broadcaster that accused him of masterminding the death of a former KGB agent in London.

The 64-year-old sued the All-Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting (RTR), over a show that alleged he was behind the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.

Berezovsky, who was awarded $225,000 in damages by the High Court in London on Wednesday, said he was pleased that RTR's claims had been "demolished".

In handing out his ruling Justice David Eady said "there is no evidence before me that Mr Berezovsky had any part in the murder of Mr Litvinenko.

"Nor, for that matter, do I see any basis for reasonable grounds to suspect him of it."

'False evidence'

RTR, which did not take part in the hearings, called the judgement illegal.

Zoya Matviyevskaya, the broadcaster's lawyer, said the company "does not recognise the decision of the court" and was ready to take it for the European Court of Human Rights.

The broadcaster also complained that Eady had tried the case without a jury.

The programme in question, which aired in April 2007 and was available in Britain via satellite, suggested that Berezovsky had plotted to kill Litvinenko after he had witnessed an attempt by the businessman to claim for political asylum using false evidence.

The show included an interview with a man, called only Pyotr, who claimed he was forced to falsely testify that Berezovsky faced a security service plot to kill him if he returned to Russia.

A man called Vladimir Terluk, accused of giving the interview in the programme, told the court he was not Pyotr but insisted that the claims in the programme were true.

According to British daily The Guardian, at least three Russian prosecutors were in court each day to assist Terluk, after RTR refused to take part in the trial.

Radioactive poisoning

Following the hearing Berezovsky said he had "no doubt" that RTR and the Russian authorities had tried to undermine his asylum status in the UK, which he successfully claimed in 2003.

"I have no doubt that, in making this programme, the purpose of RTR and the Russian authorities was to undermine my asylum status in the UK and to put the investigation of Sasha Litvinenko's murder on the wrong track."

Litvinenko was killed in November 2006 with a lethal dose of the radioactive isotope polonium-210 that was slipped into his tea as he met with former KGB agent Andrei Lugovoi in a London hotel.

Litvinenko, who was also a former agent of the KGB and its successor agency, the FSB, had fled Russia in 2000 after accusing officials there of involving him in a plot to assassinate Berezovsky.

From his deathbed in London, Litvinenko accused the Kremlin of orchestrating his radiation poisoning, and British police named Lugovoi as the prime suspect.

Russia has refused, however, to extradite Lugovoi, who is now a Russian lawmaker with the Kremlin-aligned Liberal Democratic Party.

Source:
Agencies
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