Swiss govt: legal battle over nuclear case

13th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

Bern refuses to release the Tinner case documents to the Swiss courts.

GENEVA -- The Swiss government is locked in an unprecedented battle with the judiciary over Bern's refusal to release documents in a case of alleged nuclear smuggling.

Arguing that it is acting in the interest of national security, the government blocked access of key documents from the court and ordered them to be destroyed.

Parliament also argued against the decision, saying that the government's refusal is an act of interference which violates the Swiss constitution.

Last Thursday, cantonal police armed with a court order raided the Federal Criminal Police offices in Bern, seizing a safe containing the key to the secret documents.

The government on Friday dismissed the court order as having "no effect," and said the decision to destroy the "most dangerous" documents in its possession "is absolute."

The papers are meant to be submitted in court as evidence in the Tinner case relating to two brothers and their father who were accused of helping Libya develop a nuclear weapons programme.

The Tinners were also alleged to have been in contact with Abdul Qadeer Khan, the creator of Pakistan's nuclear bomb and leader of a network supplying nuclear technology to rogue states.

Some reports however claimed that the family of engineers was recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency to help stop Libya and Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and that Swiss and US authorities cooperated after they were arrested.

The Swiss government revealed in 2008 that it had destroyed documents seized from the Tinners, causing outrage at home.

According to a New York Times report in October, the Swiss government concealed the documents due to pressure from the US spy agency, which feared its ties with the engineers would be exposed.

When the authorities revealed in December that there were more case documents that were to be destroyed, a parliamentary commission sought to have them preserved.

But the government vowed in early July that it would destroy the remaining documents, saying that the parliamentary commission did not have the "competence... to issue such orders.

"From the point of view of security policies, it is imperative that the most sensitive documents, which detail the making of nuclear weapons, are destroyed," it added.

"There are no grounds ... to reverse its decision, which takes into account in a measured manner the needs of the prosecuting authorities and Switzerland's international engagements," the government said in a statement.

Following the court's move to seize the safe last week, the government said all texts related to the manufacture of nuclear weapons would be destroyed.

"There is no appeal against this type of decision of the Federal Council. The decision is absolute," said the government in a statement, adding that the federal judge's order has therefore "no effect."

AFP / Denis Rousseau / Expatica

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