LONDON (AFP) - A jury was sworn in Tuesday for Britain's phone-hacking trial, which is set to hear explosive evidence of the scandal that brought down Rupert Murdoch's News of the World tabloid.
Nine women and three men were selected as jurors for the trial at London's Old Bailey court, the first time criminal charges have been put to the alleged key players in the scandal that rocked the British establishment two years ago.
Two former editors of the tabloid - Murdoch's protege Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, a former media chief to Prime Minister David Cameron - are among the eight defendants appearing on charges ranging from illegally hacking celebrities' phones to concealing evidence and bribing officials for stories.
Prosecutors are due to open their case on Wednesday, and the trial is set to last up to six months. All of the eight defendants deny the charges.
Coulson, Brooks and her racehorse trainer husband Charlie - who is also on trial - stood alongside the other defendants and listened impassively as the charges against them were read out.
Judge John Saunders warned the jurors that there was an exceptionally high level of publicity around the trial and that they would need to be careful to avoid coverage of the case, including on social networking sites.
"In this case in a way not only are the defendants on trial, but British justice is on trial," he told them.
"It is absolutely vital that you decide this case solely on the evidence and the arguments that you hear in court."
Brooks started out as a secretary and eventually became chief executive of Murdoch's British newspaper operations, News International, which was recently rebranded as News UK.
She is charged with phone hacking, conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office, and perverting the course of justice.
She was editor of the News of the World in 2002 when the tabloid illegally accessed the voicemail messages of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler - the explosive revelation that brought the paper down nearly a decade later.
Coulson, who is also accused of phone hacking as well as paying officials for royal contact details, was her deputy at the time.
Brooks' husband Charlie, her former personal assistant Cheryl Carter and former News International security chief Mark Hanna are charged with helping her to hide evidence in the frantic last days of the News of the World.
Also on trial are former News of the World managing editor Stuart Kuttner and head of news Ian Edmondson - charged with phone hacking - and the paper's royal editor Clive Goodman, who is accused of bribing officials.
More than 100 people have been arrested since July 2011 as part of a huge police investigation into criminal practices by the British press.