Widow of Poisoned Russian Spy Litvinenko Wins U.K. Court Appeal

The U.K. government’s decision not to hold a public inquiry into the death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko was wrong and should be reconsidered, a court ruled.

Litvinenko died from a fatal dose of radioactive polonium in 2006. His widow Marina appealed the government’s refusal to order a judge-led review of his death.

Litvinenko was an outspoken critic of the Kremlin who died after meeting a former Russian intelligence officer at a London hotel. The Russian government refused a request by British prosecutors to extradite the main suspect, Andrei Lugovoi. In July, the U.K. rejected a request by a British coroner holding an inquest into Litvinenko’s death for a public inquiry.

“I am satisfied that the reasons given by the secretary of state do not provide a rational basis for the decision not to set up a statutory inquiry,” Judge Stephen Richards said.

While the government should give “fresh consideration” to the matter, the court didn’t order a particular outcome.

The U.K. Home Office said it’s reviewing the ruling.

“The government continues to fully co-operate with the coroner’s inquest into Mr. Litvinenko’s death,” the Home Office said in a statement.

The case was filed as a judicial review, a legal mechanism that examines the decision-making process of public agencies. While an authority may be ordered to reconsider an action, it may later be allowed to draw the same conclusion provided all procedures are correctly followed.

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