LONDON – A published report says atheist campaigners Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are seeking to lay the legal groundwork to arrest Pope Benedict XVI when he visits Britain later this year.

The Sunday Times newspaper says the two men have retained lawyers Geoffrey Robertson and Mark Stephens to prepare a justification for action, on the grounds that the pope was involved in covering up sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests.

“There is every possibility of legal action against the Pope occurring,” Stephens told the Times. “Geoffrey and I have both come to the view that the Vatican is not actually a state in international law. It is not recognised by the UN, it does not have borders that are policed and its relations are not of a full diplomatic nature.”

Pope Benedict is planning a four-day visit to Scotland and England in September.

The Sunday Times quotes Dawkins as saying: “This is a man whose first instinct when his priests are caught with their pants down is to cover up the scandal and damn the young victims to silence.”

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