Sun, Sep 04, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Men to face nuclear smuggling charge

DOING HARD TIME:The suspects face up to 10 years in jail, but a shortened procedure whereby defendants admit to the basic charges could see that cut to less than five years


Three Swiss men suspected of aiding an international nuclear smuggling ring that supplied Libya and Iran are likely to face charges this fall, prosecutors said on Friday.

Urs Tinner, his brother Marco and their father, Friedrich, have been under investigation by Swiss authorities for almost a decade for supplying equipment and technical know-how to a black market nuclear network led by Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.

Walburga Bur, a spokeswoman for the Federal Prosecutors Office in Bern, said that the men’s indictment is planned for this fall.

Bur said a shortened procedure, under which defendants admit the basic charges against them but face no more than five years imprisonment, was possible. Breaking Swiss laws banning the export of nuclear material normally carries a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment.

Bur declined to comment on a report in the Swiss daily Blick, which said that federal prosecutors and the men’s lawyers were in negotiations for a shortened procedure. Blick reported on Friday that such a deal could ensure politically sensitive aspects of the investigation are not discussed in court.

The lawyers did not immediately respond to e-mails and telephone messages requesting comment.

Urs Tinner, who like his brother and father has been released on bail pending charges, said in an 2009 interview with Swiss TV station SF1 that he had worked with US intelligence, tipping it off about a delivery of centrifuge parts meant for Libya’s nuclear weapons program.

The shipment was seized at the Italian port of Taranto in 2003, forcing Libya to admit and eventually renounce its efforts to acquire nuclear weapons and exposing Khan’s smuggling ring.

The case against the Tinners prompted a political outcry in Switzerland three years ago when it was revealed that the Swiss government had ordered key evidence shredded.

The government cited national security concerns, but a parliamentary panel investigating the incident found there had been no immediate danger to Switzerland’s internal or external security.

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