Report: 3 Swiss to avoid trial in nuclear case

AP News
Posted: Nov 13, 2011 11:08 AM
Report: 3 Swiss to avoid trial in nuclear case

Swiss prosecutors will opt to avoid a public trial for three Swiss men suspected of giving nuclear weapons technology and supplies to a rogue network in Pakistan, a newspaper reported Sunday.

The case is politically sensitive for Switzerland and the United States because of alleged national security implications, the men's alleged CIA ties, and repeated instances of evidence being destroyed. It involves charges of violating Swiss nonproliferation laws.

The Federal Prosecutors Office in Bern was quoted as saying it plans to use a shortened procedure to require a penalty but no trial if the nation's top criminal court doesn't object and the men plead guilty, the Zurich weekly newspaper SonntagsZeitung reported.

Bern prosecutors' office did not immediately respond to an Associated Press request for comment.

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 an international smuggling ring led by Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.

Urs Tinner was released in December 2008 after almost five years in investigative detention without being charged.

As the creator of Pakistan's atomic bomb, Khan sold the centrifuges for secret nuclear weapons programs in countries that included Libya and Iran before his operation was disrupted in 2003.

A spokeswoman for the federal prosecutors, Walburga Bur, has previously told AP that a shortened procedure was possible under which the Swiss engineers admit the basic charges against them but face no more than five years imprisonment. Normally, anyone who breaks Swiss laws banning the export of nuclear material faces up to 10 years imprisonment.

Urs Tinner, who like his brother and father has been released on bail pending charges, claimed in an 2009 interview with Swiss TV station SF1 that he had worked with U.S. intelligence. He said he had tipped off the CIA about a delivery of centrifuge parts meant for Libya's nuclear weapons program.

The CIA has declined to comment on the case.

The shipment was seized at the Italian port of Taranto in 2003, which forced Libya to admit and eventually renounce its efforts to acquire nuclear weapons, and helped expose Khan's smuggling ring.

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The case against the Tinners sparked a political outcry in Switzerland after it was revealed that the Swiss government repeatedly ordered evidence destroyed, allegedly under pressure from senior U.S. officials.

The Swiss government cited national security concerns, but a parliamentary investigation found there had been no immediate danger to Switzerland's security.

A Swiss investigating magistrate, Andreas Mueller, who oversaw the last three years of a six-year federal probe against the Tinners, recommended last December that the government bring charges against the three men.

Mueller said his recommendation, contained in a confidential report to federal prosecutors, was based on an exhaustive probe. He said the Tinners had worked for the CIA since June 2003 and did not deny also working for the Khan network.