Tue, Dec 30, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Nuclear smuggling suspect freed from Switzerland prison


A Swiss man suspected of involvement in the world’s biggest nuclear smuggling ring has been released from prison after more than four years of investigative detention, his family said on Sunday.

Urs Tinner, 43, was freed several days ago, his mother Hedwig Tinner said by telephone from eastern Switzerland.

His brother Marco Tinner, 40, remains in detention while prosecutors appeal his release to the federal criminal court in Bellinzona, she said, refusing to comment further on the case.

The family’s information was confirmed by an official in a position to know about the case who spoke on condition of anonymity because of confidentiality rules.

The Swiss Supreme Court had rejected previous requests for their release but told investigators in August to consider whether to set Urs and Marco Tinner free pending a possible trial.

The Tinner brothers are suspected of supplying the clandestine network of Abdul Qadeer Khan — creator of Pakistan’s atomic bomb — with technical know-how and equipment that was used to make gas centrifuges. Khan sold the centrifuges to countries with secret nuclear weapons programs, including Libya and Iran, before his operation was disrupted in 2003.

Swiss investigators have struggled to piece together a complete picture of the Tinners’ alleged activities within the Khan network since their arrest four years ago. The task has been complicated by the fact that the Swiss government ordered thousands of files in the case destroyed last year citing national security concerns.

Last month, Urs Tinner’s lawyer lodged a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights arguing that the length of pretrial detention and the destruction of files breached his client’s rights. The case has yet to be heard by the Strasbourg court.

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