3 Swiss Guilty of Aiding Libyan Nuclear Program

A Swiss court has found three men guilty of helping supply material and know-how to Libya's atomic weapons program almost a decade ago.

Urs Tinner (46) and his brother Marco (43) were sentenced to prison terms that are shorter than the time they have already spent in investigative custody, according to Bloomberg. Their 74-year-old father, Friedrich, received a two-year suspended sentence. All three had pleaded guilty and were ordered to pay fines and substantial legal costs.

Swiss prosecutors alleged the three were involved in the nuclear smuggling network of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the architect of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, and that they supplied equipment and blueprints for the production of gas centrifuges to enrich uranium to weapons grade levels.

They said there was evidence the Tinners had cooperated with U.S. officials since at least June 18, 2003, and that the three engineers had manipulated the centrifuge parts intended for Libya to ensure they wouldn't function properly.

Urs Tinner spent 1,536 days in investigative custody, while his brother Marco was detained for 1,237 days before being released on bail. The long detentions resulted partly from the complexity of the prosecution and partly from the Swiss government's decision in 2007 to destroy evidence in the case — reportedly after pressure from the United States.

In October 2008 Gotthard Lerch, a German scientist, was sentenced to five and a half years in prison for supplying uranium-enrichment equipment to Libya between 1999 and 2003.

(Sources: Bloomberg, Libya Herald, Reuters)

(Picture: Gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment, intercepted en route to Libya in 2003).

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