British judge's ruling in Diana inquest challenged

Two British judges will be asked Monday to permit a review of the decision not to appoint a jury for the inquests into the deaths of Princess Diana and her friend Dodi Fayed.

The legal appeal is being launched at London's High Court by Mohamed al Fayed, the father of Dodi Fayed. The millionaire owner of Harrods department store, al Fayed is dissatisfied with Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss' decision that she would hear evidence and determine what caused the couple's deaths.

"We believe there would be a jury to aid the coroner and come to a decision," said Michael Cole, al Fayed's spokesman.

At Monday's hearing, al Fayed's lawyers will be asking for permission to appeal. If granted, arguments would be heard at a later date, reports AP.

Butler-Sloss, Britain's former top female judge and a member of the House of Lords, made the decision last month to sit alone during the inquest, which is expected to begin in May. Butler-Sloss said in her January decision that a jury could find it difficult to cope with the volume and detail of the evidence.

The inquest which is likely to have more than 30 witnesses testifying, some by video-link from Paris  will delve into technical matters on the crash, creating a video simulation and expert testimony.

The inquests could only begin after the investigations into the August 1997 deaths of Diana and Fayed, was complete. A two-year French investigation, a three-year Metropolitan Police inquiry and repeated legal action by al Fayed have delayed the inquest by nearly 10 years.

Al Fayed's legal team had pressed the judge to call a jury, saying it was the only way the public would be satisfied that proper care was taken over the issues surrounding the crash.

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