Trial date set in Britain phone hacking scandal

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LONDON - Rebekah Brooks, the former chief of News Corp.'s British newspapers, and Andy Coulson, the excommunications chief for Prime Minister David Cameron, will face trial next September over allegations linked to phone hacking.

Brooks and Coulson appeared in the Old Bailey court yesterday for a hearing along with five other people charged in connection with the phone hacking scandal that originated at the Sunday tabloid News of the World and rocked Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. empire.

The two, charged with conspiracy to hack voice mails, spoke only to confirm their names. A provisional trial date was set for September 2013.

Also in court were former news editor Greg Miskiw, former head of news Ian Edmondson, ex-chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, former reporter James Weatherup and private detective Glenn Mulcaire. Ex-managing editor Stuart Kuttner, also charged, was excused from attending the hearing.

They are accused of participating in a campaign of espionage that targeted hundreds of celebrities, sports stars, politicians and crime victims.

Among the hacking targets was Milly Dowler, 13, who was abducted and murdered in a case that drew national attention. Journalists allegedly eavesdropped on her mobile phone, listened to her voice-mail messages, and deleted some of them in order to make room for more.

Brooks, Coulson and the other former News of the World employees stand accused of one conspiracy to access voice mails that prosecutors say could affect up to 600 victims, along with other charges in relation to specific individuals.

Mulcaire is charged with four counts related to particular people.

Separately, Brooks is also charged along with her husband and five other people with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice over allegations she tried to hide information from police investigating the scandal.

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