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Trial Ordered for Britons in Leak of Memo on Al Jazeera

January 11, 2006|From Reuters

LONDON — A British court Tuesday ordered two men to face trial on charges of leaking a memo that reportedly described a plan by President Bush to bomb Arabic television channel Al Jazeera.

Civil servant David Keogh and Leo O'Connor, a researcher who worked for a former British lawmaker, face a preliminary hearing Jan. 24 on charges of breaking the Official Secrets Act. Their lawyers are pushing for the secret document to be disclosed.

A British newspaper reported last year that the memo of an April 2004 meeting between Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair detailed a proposal by Bush to bomb Al Jazeera but said Blair had persuaded him against the move.

The story was dismissed as "outlandish" by the White House, and Blair denied receiving details of any U.S. proposal to bomb Al Jazeera's offices.

Britain's attorney general has warned media they will be breaking the law if they give details of the document.

Parliament member Peter Kilfoyle said Tuesday that he had been briefed on its contents by Anthony Clarke, the lawmaker who employed O'Connor, after Clarke received a copy.

"He made me aware of the contents," Kilfoyle said. "There was a discussion about bombing Al Jazeera headquarters in Qatar and also about the attack on [the Iraqi city of] Fallouja."

"My understanding ... is that Blair and [former U.S. Secretary of State] Colin Powell were against the bombing of Al Jazeera," said Kilfoyle, who opposed Britain's role in invading Iraq.

Al Jazeera has repeatedly denied U.S. accusations that it sides with insurgents in Iraq.

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