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Ex-Murdoch executive in court over phone hacking

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN
updated 9:24 AM EDT, Mon September 3, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rebekah Brooks is ordered to appear again on September 26
  • Brooks is a friend of David Cameron and a Murdoch protege
  • The phone hacking scandal has shaken Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.
  • Celebrities including Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are alleged to have been hacked

London (CNN) -- Rebekah Brooks, a former top executive at media baron Rupert Murdoch's News International publishing company, appeared in court for the first time Monday on charges of phone hacking.

She was ordered to appear again on September 26 along with seven other defendants, not to contact any of them before their court date, and to notify police if she planned to travel abroad.

The hearing lasted less than five minutes.

Brooks, a friend of British Prime Minister David Cameron as well as a protege of Murdoch, was charged in July with three counts of conspiracy to intercept communications.

The most explosive charge against her is plotting to eavesdrop illegally on the voice mail of missing British schoolgirl Milly Dowler, who was later found murdered.

Rebekah Brooks' brief court appearance
Rebekah Brooks makes court appearance

More: Who is Rebekah Brooks?

British fury about the news that the missing girl's phone had been hacked forced Murdoch to close his best-selling Sunday tabloid News of the World, which Brooks edited at the time of the hacking.

The allegations that people working for Murdoch hacked the phones of hundreds of people sparked multiple police investigations, two parliamentary inquiries and a government-backed inquiry.

Suspected hacking victims include some of the world's biggest celebrities, including Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Jude Law, Paul McCartney and soccer star Wayne Rooney, as well as victims of crime and terrorism, politicians and other celebrities.

Dozens of people have been charged, including another former News of the World editor who later became head of communications for Cameron.

The former Cameron aide, Andy Coulson, and six other men appeared in court for the first time last month.

After a brief hearing, they were ordered not to contact one another, to notify police before international travel and to appear in court again on September 26.

They spoke in court only to confirm their names and addresses, and did not enter pleas.

Five former News of the World journalists and the private investigator at the center of the scandal appeared with Coulson.

Coulson became a top aide to Cameron after leaving the newspaper in the wake of phone hacking arrests in 2006, bringing the scandal to the heart of the British political establishment. Cameron became prime minister in 2010.

Coulson resigned as director of communications for Cameron last year when police launched a second investigation into illegal eavesdropping for Murdoch papers in Britain.

Coulson has always denied knowing about phone hacking, saying he resigned only because he bore overall responsibility for everything that happened at his paper when he was editor.

Brooks, her husband and former personal assistant also face a separate set of charges of conspiring to obstruct the police investigation into phone hacking. They were charged in May along with Brooks' former driver, a security guard, and the head of News International security with attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Prosecutors allege there were more than 600 victims of phone hacking between 2000 and 2006.

The investigation and public notoriety have been damaging to News Corp. and to Murdoch, who stepped down from a string of company boards of directors In July and further distanced himself from the print business that first brought him fame and fortune.

CNN's Jonathan Wald and Dan Rivers contributed to this report.

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