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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Litvinenko Case Going to Strasbourg

APMarina Litvinenko, center, walking to a news conference Friday, the anniversary of her husband's death by poisoning.
LONDON -- Alexander Litvinenko's widow is seeking a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights that Russia was complicit in poisoning the former Federal Security Service officer with radioactive polonium, her lawyer said Friday.

Louise Christian, who represents widow Marina Litvinenko, said she had obtained expert evidence it was "highly likely" the polonium had come from Russia's Avangard plant, a state facility surrounded by tight security.

"We say that there is evidence ... of either active complicity or connivance by the Russian Federation in the murder of Alexander Litvinenko," Christian told a news conference on the first anniversary of Litvinenko's death.

Litvinenko, who became a Kremlin critic in exile, fell ill after drinking polonium-laced tea during a meeting with Moscow-based millionaire Andrei Lugovoi and other businessmen at a London hotel weeks before his death.

He suffered an agonizing death in a London hospital on Nov. 23, 2006. Over a three-week period, the 43-year-old fitness fanatic's health degenerated, leaving him bald, with yellowing skin and complete organ failure.

If judges agree with the complaint against Moscow, the worst sanction Russia could face is expulsion from the 47-member Council of Europe -- a pan-European human rights bloc of which it is a member. No member has been expelled after losing a human rights case in Strasbourg since the organization was founded in 1949.

British-Russian relations have returned to a near Cold War low since British authorities issued an extradition request for Lugovoi on murder charges. Lugovoi has denied responsibility for Litvinenko's death.

Russia refused to hand the businessman over, saying Russian citizens could not be extradited under the country's constitution.

Christian said the alleged state complicity in murder contravened the European Convention on Human Rights, which states the right to life.

She said an independent nuclear expert -- whom she did not name -- had testified that British authorities should be able to trace the polonium's origin by comparing samples from the poisoned teapot with batches produced at Avangard and exported by Russia to various countries.

Boris Berezovsky, a friend of Litvinenko and Kremlin foe whom Russia has tried unsuccessfully to extradite from Britain, said he was "certain that Scotland Yard and the British investigators know the origin of the polonium."

"Today it's hidden in the materials at the disposal of Scotland Yard," Berezovsky told reporters Friday. "But Marina has the right, in the end, to demand an inquest, and then those materials will become public."

A police spokeswoman declined to comment.

Marina Litvinenko pledged to keep fighting for justice for her husband. "I promise one day we definitely will know who's responsible for this, because without this knowledge we just can't feel we are safe," she said. Earlier, Litvinenko's supporters gathered outside the hospital where he died to reread his deathbed statement in which he accused President Vladimir Putin of involvement in his death. Moscow has branded the claim as baseless.

"The gangsters who poisoned my son ... are even today cynically trying to show the whole world they can get away with anything," said Litvinenko's father, Walter.

Christian said she had filed Marina Litvinenko's case with the European Court of Human Rights on Thursday.

"They can award compensation, but clearly that's not the main aim of this," she said. "The main aim is to force [Russia] to take responsibility and put things right. ... The minimum would be an effective investigation."

AP, Reuters