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Charles' privacy case back in court

Charles launched legal action against Associated Newspapers after its newspaper, the Mail, on Sunday printed his private diaries.

india Updated: Feb 22, 2006 19:39 IST

Prince Charles' legal battle against Associated Newspapers over his right to privacy will return to the High Court on Wednesday after Tuesday's hearing focused on the Prince's self image as a political dissident.

Charles launched legal action against the publishers after its newspaper the Mail on Sunday printed his private diaries.

Entitled, "The Handover of Hong Kong" or "The Great Chinese Takeaway," the diaries covered the 1997 handover of the British colony of Hong Kong to China.

They were copied by a former member of staff and given to the Mail on Sunday and published in November 2005, shortly after a visit to Britain of current Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Charles is suing for breach of copyright and confidentiality in a case aimed at determining whether members of the British royal family are entitled to the same level of privacy as other members of the public.

But on Tuesday the case focused on Charles' political thoughts after his former assistant private secretary Mark Bolland said Charles had boycotted a 1999 Chinese embassy banquet out of respect for the Dalai Lama because he sees himself as a "dissident".

Bolland, who made the statement in support of the publisher, said he had tried to "dampen down" the Prince's attempts to speak on controversial and political issues.

He said he was told by Charles to tell the media that the Prince had decided to boycott the 1999 state banquet at the Chinese embassy in London hosted by visiting then President Jiang Zemin.

"The Prince chose not to attend the ... state banquet at the Chinese Embassy but to attend instead a private dinner at his home with (his now wife) Camilla Parker Bowles and close friends," Bolland said in the statement.

"He did this as a deliberate snub to the Chinese because he did not approve of the Chinese regime and is a great supporter of the (Tibetan spiritual leader) Dalai Lama whom he views as being oppressed by the Chinese.

"The Prince was aware of the political and economic importance of the state visit. Nevertheless, he wanted to make a public stand against the Chinese -- hence his decision to boycott the banquet. We tried to persuade him to attend, but to no avail."

Both Charles' lawyer and current private secretary, Michael Peat, have denied the Prince boycotted the banquet. Bolland worked for the Prince for six years and resigned in 2002 amid media reports of a clash with Peat.

Bolland said Charles would often comment on politically contentious issues.

"The Prince's very definite aim in all this activity, as he explained to me, was to influence opinion," he said. "He saw that as part of the job of the heir apparent.

"He carried it out in a very considered thoughtful and researched way. He often referred to himself as a 'dissident' working against the prevailing political consensus."

However Bolland added he had tried to "dampen down" Charles' behaviour as he could see how much controversy his views were creating and felt it was an important step to prepare the Prince for becoming King.

The case is expected to last three days. The newspaper said it published the story because the public had a right to know.