Trial announced for Swiss nuclear smugglers said to be CIA agents
December 15, 2011 5 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Switzerland has officially charged three Swiss citizens with assisting the nuclear smuggling network of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear program, who gave nuclear information to North Korea, Libya and Iran. But the scope of the trial will be severely limited under a peculiar plea bargain struck with the three defendants, which will prevent the court from examining their claims of having worked as agents of the United States Central Intelligence Agency. Friedrich Tinner and his two sons, Urs and Marco, were arrested by German and Italian authorities in 2004 and extradited to Switzerland. Soon afterwards, Swiss authorities came under political pressure from the US Department of State, which appeared displeased with the prospect of a trial for the Tinners. Swiss government investigators quickly realized that the Tinners were considered valuable assets by the CIA, something which Urs Tinner himself admitted in a January 2009 interview. So convinced were Swiss authorities of Urs Tinners’ CIA connection claims, that they turned down repeated requests by the Tinners’ lawyers to release their clients on bail, fearing the three suspects would escape to the United States. In 2007, there was further uproar in Swiss public opinion, when it emerged that the Swiss Federal Department of Defense had secretly shredded 30,000 pages of vital evidence in the Tinners’ case, ostensibly to prevent their falling into the hands of foreign governments or terrorists. Several pundits accused Swiss authorities of destroying the documents under heavy political pressure from Washington. These suspicions were rekindled this week, after Switzerland’s attorney general announced that the Tinners would be tried for “aiding the illegal nuclear weapons program of an unknown state”. In the same announcement, however, the attorney general said that, under a guilty plea struck with the three defendants, no evidence regarding allegations of espionage would be heard in the main trial proceedings. British newspaper The Guardian quotes one expert on the A.Q. Kahn nuclear smuggling network, David Albright, as saying that the deal has been “done to keep the CIA link out of court”. The paper adds that observers predict that the Tinners will escape jail time, as they have already spent several years behind bars, in pre-trial detention.