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Prince in diaries secrecy battle

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Chinese President Jiang Zemin greets Prince Charles before the handover of Hong Kong in 1997.

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LONDON, England -- Prince Charles is entitled to keep his personal documents confidential in the same way as the "humblest private citizen," a British High Court judge was told on Tuesday.

The Prince of Wales is asking Mr. Justice Blackburne to rule that The Mail on Sunday breached his confidentiality and copyright when it published extracts from his journals.

He claims the diaries were copied by a former member of his staff and given to the newspaper.

The Mail on Sunday has already published unflattering comments by the heir to Britain's throne on the handover of Hong Kong to China when he described Chinese diplomats as "appalling old waxworks."

Hugh Tomlinson QC, representing the prince, who also wants seven other diaries copied by a "disloyal former employee" returned, told the court on Tuesday: "We are not dealing with state secrets.

"We are dealing with an ordinary type of personal journal of the type that any citizen might make in respect of a foreign trip, recording thoughts and impressions.

"We say it is absolutely vital to the position of the claimant -- and anyone else in his position -- that this sort of document cannot be published willy nilly by the press and that is the reason we brought this action."

Tomlinson said the prince recognised that his role in the life of the nation would attract comment and criticism. "What he says, however, is that like everyone else -- from the humblest private citizen to the highest public figure -- he is entitled to keep his personal documents private."

The prince wants the material returned, including his 3,000-word journal, which he entitled "The Handover of Hong Kong -- or The Great Chinese Takeaway," which was quoted in the newspaper article.

The newspaper, together with other media organizations, is trying to stop the case being made the subject of secrecy orders by the courts.

Mr. Justice David Richards ruled at a hearing earlier this month that a witness statement, provided by Mark Bolland, a former deputy private secretary to the prince who is giving evidence for the Mail on Sunday, should be made available to lawyers for media organizations.

The judge said he was doing this so that the media could argue before the trial judge, who would have to decide whether the hearing should be heard totally in public or partly in private.

The former member of Charles' staff accused of copying the journals was named as Sara Goodall who was employed as secretary to the Deputy Private Secretary at St. James's Palace from 1988 until December 2000 when she was sacked.

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