RICHARD DAWKINS, the atheist campaigner, is planning a legal ambush to have the Pope arrested during his state visit to Britain “for crimes against humanity”.
Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, the atheist author, have asked human rights lawyers to produce a case for charging Pope Benedict XVI over his alleged cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic church.
The pair believe they can exploit the same legal principle used to arrest Augusto Pinochet, the late Chilean dictator, when he visited Britain in 1998.
The Pope was embroiled in new controversy this weekend over a letter he signed arguing that the “good of the universal church” should be considered against the defrocking of an American priest who committed sex offences against two boys. It was dated 1985, when he was in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which deals with sex abuse cases.
Benedict will be in Britain between September 16 and 19, visiting London, Glasgow and Coventry, where he will beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman, the 19th-century theologian.
Dawkins and Hitchens believe the Pope would be unable to claim diplomatic immunity from arrest because, although his tour is categorised as a state visit, he is not the head of a state recognised by the United Nations.
They have commissioned the barrister Geoffrey Robertson and Mark Stephens, a solicitor, to present a justification for legal action.