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Updated: March 10, 2010 17:36 IST

Oligarch wins suit against Russian broadcaster

AP
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Self-exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky, leaves the High Court in London, on Wednesday, after winning his libel case. Photo: AP.
Self-exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky, leaves the High Court in London, on Wednesday, after winning his libel case. Photo: AP.

Self-exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky, on Wednesday won a libel case against a Russian broadcaster that accused him of masterminding the murder of a former KGB agent in London.

The 64-year-old tycoon sued All-Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting, known as RTR, over a show that alleged he was behind the 2006 poisoning death of rebel Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko.

In the 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.”

Mr. Eady awarded Mr. Berezovsky 150,000 pounds (about $225,000) in damages.

Mr. Berezovsky, who was in court for the verdict, said in a statement he was pleased the court “has unequivocally demolished RTR’s claims.”

RTR did not take part in the hearings, and called the judgment illegal. Speaking from Moscow, the broadcaster’s lawyer Zoya Matviyevskaya, said the company “does not recognize the decision of the court” and was ready to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

The broadcaster also complained that Mr. Eady had tried the case without a jury - an unusual situation in Britain. Last week it had demanded that the case be thrown out, saying Britain’s justice system had prevented it from defending itself by demanding it reveal the source of its reporting, which it refused to do.

Litvinenko was killed in November 2006 with a lethal dose of the rare 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 Mr. 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 Mr. Lugovoi, who is now a Russian lawmaker with the Kremlin—aligned Liberal Democratic Party.

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