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Rebekah Brooks formally charged in UK eavesdropping scandal

By the CNN Wire Staff
August 3, 2012 -- Updated 0105 GMT (0905 HKT)
Rebekah Brooks
Rebekah Brooks "answered bail" at Lewisham police station in London on Thursday, police said.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rebekah Brooks is charged on 3 offenses at a London police station, police say
  • She posts bail and is scheduled to next appear in court on September 3
  • Brooks is a former editor of The News of the World and CEO of News International
  • She is one of several former News Corp. employees facing charges in the case

(CNN) -- The former head of media baron Rupert Murdoch's News International was formally charged at a London police station Thursday in the eavesdropping probe that has rocked the News Corp. empire and British government, London police said.

Authorities announced last week that Rebekah Brooks -- who besides being a onetime chief executive of News International, which is the division of News Corp. that includes the company's British newspapers, also had been editor of The News of the World tabloid -- was among those being charged in the high-profile case.

On Thursday evening, she "answered bail" at Lewisham police station in the British capital and "was charged" with several offenses, the Metropolitan Police Service said in a written statement.

She posted bail and is scheduled to next appear in court on September 3.

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The long-running police investigation prompted by illegal eavesdropping at the defunct Murdoch tabloid The News of the World has expanded into probes of computer hacking, bribery and corruption. Brooks served as that newspaper's editor before taking the same role at The Sun and eventually rising to the CEO position with News International.

The announced names of the suspected hacking victims include some of the world's biggest celebrities, including Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Jude Law, Paul McCartney and soccer star Wayne Rooney.

The phone-hacking accusations have reverberated through the top levels of British politics and journalism, led to the major tabloid's closing and prompted a parliamentary committee to issue damning criticism of Murdoch.

Others charged in the case include Andy Coulson, an editor at News of the World who went on to become director of communications for British Prime Minister David Cameron before resigning.

According to Thursday's release from London police, Brooks was charged on three offenses. The first claims that she -- along with Coulson, Stuart Kuttner, Greg Miskiw, Ian Edmondson, Neville Thurlbeck and James Weatherup -- conspired between October 3, 2000, and August 9, 2006, "to intercept communications in the course of their transmission, without lawful authority." Specifically, the charge asserts that they listened to "voice mail messages of well-known people."

Another charge accuses Brooks, Coulson, Kuttner, Miskiw, Thurlbeck and Glenn Mulcaire of intercepting messages of Milly Dowler, the 13-year-old British schoolgirl who was abducted and murdered in 2002.

Lastly, Brooks, Mulcaire and Miskiw are charged with, between December 3, 2002, and January 22, 2003, conspiring to intercept the messages of firefighter trade union boss Andy Gilchrist.

Brooks has previously vigorously denied the charges against her, saying she was "distressed and angry."

The scandal exploded with the revelation that the phone of Dowler was hacked after she disappeared in 2002. She was later found murdered. Indications that her voice mail had been accessed had given her parents the false hope she was still alive.

Prosecutors allege there were more than 600 victims of phone hacking between 2000 and 2006.

The investigation and public notoriety has been damaging to News Corp. and Murdoch, who stepped down from a string of company boards of directors earlier this month and further distanced himself from the print business that first brought him fame and fortune.

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