Diana inquest opens, 10 years after her death

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LONDON, Oct 2 (Reuters) An inquest into the death of Princess Diana finally opened today, 10 years after she was killed in a Paris car crash, with her lover's father still convinced the pair were victims of an Establishment plot.

Mohamed al-Fayed, owner of London's luxury Harrods store, fought a long legal battle to have the inquest heard by a judge and jury.

London's High Court is expected to spend up to six months deciding if her death was an accident.

The Egyptian-born tycoon, whose son Dodi died in the crash after a much-publicised summer romance with the ''people's princess'', alleges they were killed by British security forces acting on orders from the royal family.

He even wants to summon Diana's ex-husband, Prince Charles, and former father-in-law, the Duke of Edinburgh, arguing: ''The establishment has done the only thing it could to hurt me. It has killed my son. That I cannot forgive.'' Major investigations by French and British police concluded the deaths were a tragic accident caused by a speeding chauffeur, who was found to be drunk.

Diana, 36, Dodi al-Fayed, 42, and chauffeur Henri Paul were all killed when their Mercedes car crashed in a road tunnel as they sped away from the Ritz Hotel in Paris, pursued by paparazzi on motorbikes.

Greeted by a crowd of reporters outside the central London courtroom, Fayed said he hoped that after a decade of fighting for justice, he would see the jury reach the right decision.

''My son and Princess Diana have been murdered by the royal family,'' he said.

Britain had to wait for the French legal process to be exhausted and then for the British police investigation to run its course before the inquest could begin.

Up to 140 reporters from around the world have been accredited to attend the court, with the judge, Lord Justice Scott Baker, promising jurors police protection to shield them from the glare of media publicity.

Diana's sons William and Harry, who mourned their mother under the world's gaze at her 1997 funeral, have pleaded for the inquest to be ''open, fair and transparent'' and completed as fast as possible.

By the time it ends, the laborious legal process may have cost British taxpayers up to 10 million pounds (.42 million).

Under British law, an inquest is needed to determine the cause of death when someone dies unnaturally.

REUTERS ARB PM1505

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