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‘Wargate’ enthralls British public

The inquiry into the death of a top British weapon’s expert has has made headlines for weeks, been reconstructed on television daily, and will soon be staged in a north London theater.
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The inquiry into the death of a top weapons’ expert has taken Britain by storm. Along with the throng of journalists, more than 100 members of the public lined up in the London fog, many camping-out overnight, to see Prime Minister Tony Blair take the stand on Thursday. The courtroom face-off between Blair’s government and the British Broadcasting Corp. has made headlines for weeks, been reconstructed on television daily, and will soon be staged in a north London theater.

“Wargate,” as Britons have nicknamed the inquiry, has become a soap opera affair, involving top officials, secret documents, and an apparent suicide.

Weapons’ expert Dr. David Kelly was found in the woods with a slashed wrist near his Oxfordshire home last month after being named as the source behind a BBC reporter’s claim that the government “sexed up” its dossier on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.

The inquiry into the circumstances surrounding his death got under way nearly three weeks ago. But, despite a play-by-play commentary from every newspaper, radio, and television station in the country, the senior judge conducting the inquiry, Lord Brian Hutton, has barred television cameras from the courtroom.

Unlike the televised 1973 Watergate hearings in the United States, most people in this country have had to rely on gleaning information from transcripts and reenactments.


With 67 percent of Britons believing that Blair’s government deceived the country in the run-up to the Iraq war, according to this week’s ICM poll published in The Sunday Telegraph, many want to check the facts out for themselves.

InsertArt(2009435)However, only the first 10 members of the public to arrive at the Royal Courts of Justice are allowed in the courtroom itself. Another 70 are escorted to a separate room where they are shown closed-circuit camera footage of proceedings, live transcripts and photographs of documents used in evidence.

Anthony Gora, 22, from Ipswich, spent the night on the pavement outside the courtroom, hoping to see Blair in person. He turned out to be 26th in line.

“I thought it would be interesting,” Gora told “I’m a student and this is unprecedented, in my lifetime in particular, a prime minister being questioned over a matter of pretty serious importance that could threaten his premiership,” he said.


For those unable to venture to the central London courtroom, reconstructions of the hearings can be seen on Sky News as actors read transcripts of the day’s events.

But for those who still haven’t had their fill, a north London theater will begin performing “Justifying War: Scenes from the Hutton Inquiry” shortly after the judicial proceedings conclude at the end of October.

The Tricycle Theater will stage an edited version of the inquiry’s transcripts six days a week through the first week of December, with a discussion session following some performances.

“The director (Nicolas Kent) is at the inquiry every day,” Lacy Freeman, a member of the theater’s staff said.

Although the director has been allowed to attend the courtroom proceeding without waiting in the overnight line, the government “was not very happy about him being there in the first place,” Freeman said.

The Tricycle has performed a number of “tribunal” plays in the past, including Nuremberg: The 1946 War Crimes Tribunal and Half the Picture: The Scott Arms to Iraq Inquiry, which covered the only other inquiry in British history to involve a prime minister.

“All of the others were incredibly successful. They transferred to the West End, then onto television,” Freeman said.

Kent, the play’s director, said in a recent statement that his motive for staging the productions was to inform the public.

“We hope very soon to see the day when we no longer need to stage them, through the Government ensuring that all Public Inquiries are fully available to the public in all the media,” his statement said.

Judging by the line to get into the real courtroom, “we believe it will be almost completely sold out,” Freeman said.’s Preston Mendenhall contributed to this report.