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Tony Blair's wife Cherie sues Murdoch's UK newspaper company over phone hacking

LONDON —The wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair is suing Rupert Murdoch's British newspaper company over phone hacking, her lawyer said Wednesday.

Cherie Blair is suing "in relation to the unlawful interception of her voicemails," lawyer Graham Atkins said in an email, making her one of the most high-profile people to have challenged Murdoch's News International over the illegal eavesdropping campaign waged against politicians, celebrities, athletes and others in the public eye.

Tony Blair served as British prime minister between 1997 and 2007, overseeing a period of sustained growth at home and assertiveness abroad. His home life occasionally became the fodder for media gossip, and Cherie Blair had a particularly testy relationship with the country's tabloid press.

There had been earlier speculation about the possibility that Cherie Blair's phone had been hacked. Tony Blair's former spokesman, Alastair Campbell, has long wondered aloud about how the 1999 story of her pregnancy was obtained by the Daily Mirror.

In written testimony made public last year, Campbell said that he had long suspected that a friend of Cherie Blair's had been leaking information to the media about her movements. He said he was "now certain that I was mistaken in my belief," leaving open the possibility that the newspaper had received the information by listening in on Cherie Blair's messages.

"I think it is at least possible this is how the stories got out," he told a judge-led inquiry into media ethics. "They (the stories) often involved details of where Cherie was going, the kind of thing routinely discussed on phones when planning visits, private as well as public."

The inquiry was set up last year following public outrage over the illegal behavior at the News of the World tabloid.

Murdoch was left with little choice but to close the 168-year-old paper in July following revelations that it had hacked into the phone of a missing schoolgirl who was later found murdered. Since then, police have made almost 40 arrests — including many well-known reporters — over phone hacking and in connection to related inquiries into the payment of bribes to public officials and email hacking.

Millions have been paid out by Murdoch's company so far in out-of-court settlements to about 60 victims of hacking.

Details of Cherie Blair's claim were not immediately made public Wednesday. Atkins said he would not be commenting further on the case.

Murdoch's News International did not immediately return a message seeking comment. A Blair spokesman also declined comment.

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