В мире25 июля 2014 14:33

Piling on Putin

By William Dunkerley, US-based media business consultant and analyst

David Cameron's personal mission to hit Russia hard over the MH17 disaster triggered a reopening of the dormant 2006 Alexander Litvinenko death case. Apparently the goal is to unearth evidence that might incriminate Putin.

In 2012 Sir Robert Owen, a high court judge, tried that too. He was made coroner in the Litvinenko case, but refused to rule on how, when, and where Litvinenko came by his death, his statutory duties. Instead he led an intense witch hunt to pin criminal culpability, something coroners are forbidden from doing.

When news got out of Owen's rogue activities, he attempted to outmaneuver the rules. He asked the British government to convert his coroner's inquest into an official Inquiry that could be held in secret.

Home Secretary Theresa May denied Owen's request, ruling it unnecessary. She told him stop the witch hunt and concentrate on his statutory responsibilities.

But amidst Cameron's anti-Putin crusade, May has reversed herself. She inexplicably gave Owen the inquiry he wanted. While last year she said that Litvinenko's widow and son "would learn no more from an Inquiry than from the inquest, she is now saying she hopes "this Inquiry will be of some comfort to his widow Mrs. Litvinenko." That's all quite a turnabout. How embarrassing it must be for Mrs. May.

Her troubles are not over, though. I've seen where Owen based his request for the Inquiry on falsified facts. For instance, he claimed Litvinenko had made a public statement that fingered Putin for his death. But that statement was a hoax. The hoaxer has confessed and admitted there was no factual basis for his claims.

The final kicker is May's appointment of Owen to lead the Inquiry. That flies in the face of the legal requirement for impartiality. Owen has demonstrated he's interested in one thing -- Russian culpability -- and was willing to flout the law in hot pursuit. What's more, until Owen was put on the Litvinenko case, he was facing mandatory retirement from the bench in September. Extending his activities in the Litvinenko Inquiry keeps him on the government payroll indefinitely. How is Mrs. May going to explain all this?

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