The latest developments in the Litvinenko inquest vindicate the claims of the two suspects, Lugovoi and Kovtun, that they cannot have a fair trial in Britain. The Coroner has acceded to the Foreign Office's request to exclude a large part of the evidence from the inquest on the grounds that it cannot be publicly disclosed. Contrary to what is being said by Litvinenko's widow and by the British media, this is not in order to protect trade links or relations with Russia. The Coroner made it absolutely clear that it is so as not to compromise intelligence sources (including human agents) and information provided by foreign intelligence agencies that cooperate with Britain's (probably those of the US). The Coroner admitted that the case for Russian state involvement in the Litvinenko murder rests entirely on this excluded evidence. He pointedly said that such "evidence" of Russian state involvement as is to be found in the public domain originates from sources that are hostile to Russia and is unreliable. That includes all the gossip and rumours that have been circulating about the case for years. The Coroner obviously did not say what the excluded evidence is but dropped a heavy hint that it includes evidence of the source of the polonium that supposedly poisoned Litvinenko. The Coroner admitted that for the inquest to proceed without consideration of this evidence would make its findings incomplete. He has therefore all but decided to close it down. He recommends that the government instead set up an inquiry into Litvinenko's death that will look at this evidence in secret. The point is that since the evidence cannot be publicly disclosed it would have to be excluded from any future trial of Lugovoi and Kovtun. The British authorities believe or claim to believe that Lugovoi and Kovtun killed Litvinenko. The extent of the Russian state's involvement in Litvinenko's murder would however be decided at a secret hearing on the basis of evidence that neither Russia nor Lugovoi and Kovtun could see or refute. The key decision of whether the Russian state employed Lugovoi and Kovtun to murder Litvinenko would therefore be decided not at their trial but elsewhere and in secret on the basis of evidence, which neither they nor the Russian state would be permitted to see or refute. In the light of this I cannot see how any trial of Lugovoi and Kovtun could ever be anything other than a show trial. If the inquiry reports that the Russian state was responsible for Litvinemko's murder, then Lugovoi and Kovtun would be tried for Litvinenko's murder whilst being prevented from challenging the key finding that declared the Russian state, their supposed employer, guilty of the murder. The supposed agents would be tried after condemnation of the principal. Given that Lugovoi and Kovtun are the only individuals who could realistically have murdered Litvinenko on the Russian state's behalf, it is difficult to see how their trial could in that case ever end in anything other than a conviction. Ending the inquest and transferring consideration of the case to an inquiry also has from the British point of view the further advantage that the Russian state would no longer automatically be an interested party. The 60 volumes of evidence submitted to the inquest by the Russian Investigative Committee could therefore be excluded from consideration or given only cursory attention. The entire case would be decided in secret by a carefully vetted British tribunal of inquiry on the basis of evidence provided by the British authorities. So far this evidence does not even include the autopsy report. As I have repeatedly said, I do not know who murdered Litvinenko or even if he was killed. What is now clear is that I now never will know. Past experience (eg. over the presence of WMD in Iraq or, more pertinently, in relation to the Zatuliveter case) shows that "evidence" from British intelligence sources is not to be relied upon. It is now clear that the entire British case in the Litvinenko affair depends on such evidence. However that evidence is now never going to be made available so that it can be subjected to proper public or legal scrutiny. The inquiry the Coroner proposes be set up inspires no confidence. It looks too much like a device to enable the British state and media to continue to say that Russia and Lugovoi and Kovtun killed Litvinenko without having to make public their evidence to support that claim.