Details Disputed in Britain Shooting Investigation

In Britain, a television report claims government documents throw into doubt police accounts of a fatal shooting on the London underground. Police initially said the man was a suspect in the July 21st attempted attacks on the London underground. The victim's supporters have called on the police to suspend their shoot to kill policy towards suspected suicide bombers.

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SUSAN STAMBERG, host:

A British television report claims leaked government documents throw doubt on police accounts of a fatal shooting on the London Underground. ITV--that's Britain's main commercial television station--claims to have documents from an independent inquiry into the July 22nd shooting of a Brazilian electrician. At first, London police said the man was a suspect in attempted Underground attacks on July 21st. The victim's supporters want police to suspend their shoot-to-kill policy toward suspected suicide bombers. NPR's Anthony Kuhn joins us from London.

Anthony, what does the ITV report say, and how is this different from earlier accounts of what went on?

ANTHONY KUHN reporting:

Well, the ITV reports purport to show documents and testimony given to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which is handling the inquiry. And we should state up front, of course, that the IPCC--that inquiry has not confirmed the authenticity of these documents, but they haven't denied the authenticity, either. The documents purport to show testimony and CCTV footage that show Jean Charles de Menezes, the electrician, walking into the Stockwell Underground station and picking up a copy of a newspaper and then paying his fare at the turnstile, then going in and sitting on a train, where a witness, a police eyewitness, later says he restrained de Menezes before he was shot.

Now this is very different from eyewitness accounts that came out on July 22nd, the day of the shooting. They said de Menezes was wearing a heavy jacket, thick jacket, which was suspicious in the middle of summer and could have concealed a bomb, that he vaulted the turnstiles, that he ignored police orders to stop and that he was tackled on the train of the floor and shot. And we've also seen one picture that was released here showing him, in fact, wearing a denim jacket and also showing blood on the seat, indicating that he was shot while sitting down.

STAMBERG: Mm-hmm. And has there been a reaction from the British government to this alleged news and the leak of it?

KUHN: Well, the IPCC, while refusing to comment, made it clear that they thought this leak was very improper and that information should have reached the family of the victim through them and not through the media. The Home Office, which is in charge of security and counterterrorism matters, says that this independent investigation has to go on without interference from the media. The family of de Menezes says that these leaks confirm what they've been saying all along, that there was nothing to indicate anything suspicious about Jean Charles' actions, and that essentially he was killed in an execution-style shooting and that, therefore, these shoot-to-kill policies toward suspected terrorists must be suspended.

Also interestingly, the Metropolitan Police have issued a statement saying that they were in communication with the Home Office shortly after the shooting, and that they agreed that the police investigation into what appeared to be a suspected terrorist incident had to take precedence over the independent inquiry, and that's why the shooting happened on Friday and the inquiry started on Monday.

STAMBERG: Well, Anthony, is there any reason to think that these eyewitness accounts are any more accurate than the original ones?

KUHN: Well, we may not know until the results of the inquiry by the independent commission are made public, and that could take months.

STAMBERG: Mm-hmm. Italy has approved the extradition of one of the July 21st attack suspects. What about that?

KUHN: Yes. This person, variously identified as Hussain Osman or Osman Hussain, now has 10 days left to appeal this extradition ruling, and if that fails, he could be sent back to Britain within the next 35 days. And the man's lawyer says that they do intend to appeal to the Italian Supreme Court.

STAMBERG: Thank you very much. NPR's Anthony Kuhn in London.

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