LONDON - Rebekah Brooks, a trusted confidante of Rupert Murdoch and friend to a succession of British prime ministers, appears in a London court on Wednesday accused of hindering a police investigation into phone hacking and corruption by staff at his British tabloids.

Huge media interest is guaranteed for the first appearance in the dock of the 44-year-old, a former editor of two of Britain's top-selling newspapers who counts the upper echelons of the British establishment and senior politicians in her network of friends.

Those include Prime Minister David Cameron whose close relationship with Brooks and other figures in Murdoch's media empire will come under the microscope when he appears before a public inquiry into press ethics on Thursday.

Brooks is charged with concealing material from detectives carrying out a major inquiry into alleged criminal activities at News International, the British newspaper arm of Murdoch's News Corp where she was chief executive until last year.

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