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Over the past six months, Prince Harry has dominated the news with his legal battles against the British press, the publication of his memoir, and the unveiling of a revealing Netflix documentary series.

He will now become the first British royal to testify in court since the 1890s when he appears in the High Court in London as part of his lawsuit against Mirror Group Newspapers.

The long-awaited action alleges that the publisher of the Mirror illegally obtained information on the Duke of Sussex and a number of other celebrities in order to generate headlines.

What is the court case about?

Harry will appear in the witness box at London’s High Court as part of the case he and more than 100 other celebrities and high-profile figures have brought against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN), publisher of the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and Sunday People, accusing them of widespread unlawful activities between 1991 and 2011.

Those involved include actors, sports stars, celebrities and people who simply had a connection to high-profile figures.

Prine Harry will become the first British royal to testify in court since the 1890s when he appears in the High Court in London as part of his lawsuit against Mirror Group Newspapers. Reuters

It will be the first time a senior royal has given evidence since Edward VII testified as a witness in part of a divorce case in 1870 and 20 years later in a slander trial over a card game, both before he became king.

They say its journalists or private investigators commissioned by them carried out phone-hacking on an “industrial scale”, obtained their private details by deception and carried out other illicit acts to find out information about them.

Senior editors and executives knew and approved of the behaviour, the claimants’ lawyers say. MGN is contesting the claims and denies senior figures were aware of wrongdoing. It also argues some of the lawsuits were brought too late.

Also Read: Prince Harry and Meghan ‘divorce’ rumours: Which British royals have called it quits before?

Harry, the younger son of King Charles, was selected at an earlier hearing as one of four test cases for the trial which began on 10 May. He is due to give evidence when his specific case is heard over three days, starting on Monday.

What is phone-hacking?

Phone-hacking, the illegal interception of voicemails on mobile phones, first came to attention in 2006 when the then royal editor of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World (NoW) tabloid and a private investigator were arrested.

They pleaded guilty and were jailed in 2007. The NoW and senior figures at Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers (NGN) UK operation said hacking was limited to a rogue reporter.

But further revelations in 2011, including that a murdered schoolgirl had been targeted, led to the closure of the paper and a criminal trial.

In 2014, the NoW’s former editor, Andy Coulson, who later worked for ex-Prime Minister David Cameron, was found guilty of conspiracy to hack phones and jailed. Rebekah Brookes, who heads up Murdoch’s UK newspaper and radio operation, was acquitted of all charges.

The Mirror group had consistently denied its journalists had been involved in hacking, including at a public inquiry, but in 2014 it admitted liability in four cases.

Since then, MGN has settled more than 600 claims at a cost of over 100 million pounds ($120 million or Rs 988 crore) in damages and costs.

What does Harry say the Mirror Group Newspaper did?

Harry says 140 stories which appeared in MGN papers were the result of phone-hacking or other unlawful behaviour, however the trial is only considering 33 of these.

His lawyers said the intrusion led to the breakdown of his relationship with long-term girlfriend Chelsy Davy.

The long-awaited action alleges that the publisher of the Mirror illegally obtained information on the Duke of Sussex and a number of other celebrities in order to generate headlines. Reuters

In other documents released at the outset of the trial, MGN admitted there was evidence that private investigators had been instructed to unlawfully gather information about three of those involved in the test cases, including, on one occasion, Harry.

The publisher said it unreservedly apologised and that he was entitled to compensation.

However, it has rejected his other claims. In documents, it says some of the information had been passed on by a former senior aide working for his father.

Why is Harry taking action?

The MGN case is one of four that Harry is currently pursuing at the High Court against British newspapers.

Also Read: Harry, Meghan’s divorce rumours: The Duke of Sussex could be ‘LOCKED’ in UK for life

He is also suing Murdoch’s NGN, which publishes the Sun tabloid and used to produce the defunct NoW, over alleged phone-hacking and other unlawful acts. NGN denies the Sun was involved in wrongdoing and is fighting to have his case thrown out.

The prince, with singer Elton John and five others, is also suing Associated Newspapers (ANL), publisher of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, over phone-hacking and illicit privacy breaches. ANL denies any unlawful activity.

Harry is also suing ANL for libel.

“This isn’t just about phone hacking, this is about accountability of power,” he wrote in a statement as part of the NGN case. He says the press was too important to have “criminals masquerading as journalists running the show”.

With inputs from Reuters 

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