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Two men appear in court over Al Jazeera bomb threat leak

LONDON - A civil servant and a former MP's researcher have appeared in court accused of leaking a controversial memo, which alleges US President George Bush wanted to bomb the Qatar offices of Arab TV network Al Jazeera.

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The two men, 49-year-old former Cabinet Office communications officer David Keogh and 42-year-old Leo O'Connor, who previously worked for former Labour MP Anthony Clarke, appeared at Bow Street Magistrates' Court yesterday, charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act.

The case, which was adjourned until January 10, follows a legal furore over the memo, in which attorney general Lord Goldsmith said any publication of the memo by newspapers would be considered a breach of section five of the act. This makes it an offence to come into possession of government information from a Crown servant, who has disclosed it without legal authority.

Lord Goldsmith made the move after the Daily Mirror broke the story of the alleged plan and referred to details of the memo.

It is alleged that the memo is a transcript of a meeting between Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the White House on April 16 2004.

During the meeting, it is alleged that Bush suggested bombing Al Jazeera's headquarters, because he was angered by its coverage of the war, but was later dissuaded by Blair.

The White House has denied the allegations and branded the story "outlandish".

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera is to launch an English-language channel next year. The new channel is set to feature veteran broadcaster Sir David Frost and will be broadcast in the West.

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