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Inquest Opens into Accidental UK Police Shooting of Brazilian

An inquest opened in Britain Monday into the accidental shooting by police of a Brazilian man they believed was a terrorist in the immediate aftermath of the London tube and bus bombings in July 2005.

A man in a Brazilian soccer team shirt looks at a photograph of Jean Charles de Menezes outside Stockwell underground station in south London

The inquest into de Menezes' killing has been buoyed by strong public support

Relatives of 27-year-old Jean Charles de Menezes had demanded the inquest, which is presided over by a judge and will be heard by a jury of ordinary men and women who will decide whether or not de Menezes was "unlawfully killed."

It provides the first opportunity for members of de Menezes' family to question those involved in his death.

The hearing, expected to last three months, takes place in a specially erected courtroom at the Oval cricket ground in south London, near where de Menezes was shot on July 22, 2005.

He was pursued by armed anti-terrorism officers onto the platform of Stockwell Tube station and killed by at least seven shots to the head, investigations by an independent police watchdog have found.

Public supports de Menezes inquest

Jean Charles de Menezes

The innocent slaying of de Menezes has drawn the public's attention and pressured police

A large black and white banner draped from nearby flats at the Oval read: "Inquest, not cover-up - Justice for Jean."

Supporters of the family handed out leaflets, printed in the colours of the Brazilian flag, titled "three years no justice." They wore T-shirts marking the date of his death, and carrying the London Underground logo.

On Monday, Coroner Michael Wright, a former High Court judge, will outline the aims of the inquest after swearing in the jury.

The family of de Menezes will be represented by Michael Mansfield, the prominent defence lawyer who acted for Harrods' owner Mohammed al-Fayed in last year's inquest into the death of Princess Diana.

Inquest to challenge Scotland Yard chief

The inquest, during which up to 75 witnesses will be heard, is seen as a direct challenge to Scotland Yard chief Ian Blair, who has been accused of "misleading the public" by telling the media hours after the shooting that it was "definitely terrorist-related."

Blair has since apologized to the family of de Menezes and admitted that "serious mistakes" were made on the day.

The shooting came a day after an attempted follow-up attack by Muslim extremists on tube trains and a bus in London on July 21, which was foiled by police.

The jury has the task of bringing together the final account of how de Menezes met his death. Last year, a trial at London's Old Bailey Criminal Court found the Metropolitan Police guilty of

"serious failures" and fined it for breach of health and safety rules for "endangering the public" during the incident.

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