LONDON – A judge on Tuesday ordered two British men to stand trial on charges of leaking a government memo in which President Bush reportedly suggested to British Prime Minister Tony Blair bombing the headquarters of the Arab satellite news channel Al-Jazeera.
Civil servant David Keogh, 49, and Leo O'Connor, 42, a lawmaker's former researcher, were charged in November with breaching the Official Secrets Act. Both men are free on bail awaiting trial.
During a hearing at Bow Street Magistrates' Court, Judge Timothy Workman said their trial would begin with a preliminary hearing at the Central Criminal Court on Jan. 24.
Prosecutors allege that Keogh passed the secret document to O'Connor sometime between April 16 and May 28, 2004.
The court has not revealed the contents of the document.
The Daily Mirror reported the memo revealed details of a conversation between Bush and Blair at the White House on April 16, 2004. According to the newspaper, Blair argued against Bush's suggestion to bomb Al-Jazeera's headquarters in Doha, Qatar. The Daily Mirror said its sources disagreed on whether Bush's suggestion was serious.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan called the newspaper's claims "outlandish and inconceivable." Blair has said he had no information about any proposed U.S. action against Al-Jazeera.
O'Connor's lawyer, Neil Clark, complained at an earlier hearing that he had not seen the document and called for it to be disclosed.
Outside court Tuesday, he said he had now seen the memo.
"It is what I expected, having read the media," he said. "I didn't think there was anything in there that could embarrass the British government," he added without elaborating.
Keogh, a former communications officer at the Cabinet Office, faces two charges under Section 3 of the Officials Secrets Act of making a "damaging disclosure of a document" without lawful authority.
O'Connor, who worked for former governing Labour Party lawmaker Tony Clarke, is charged with receiving the document.
They each face a maximum sentence of two years in prison.
O'Connor indicated at an earlier hearing that he intended to plead not guilty. Keogh did not say on Tuesday how he intended to plead.