Lawyer rejects Swiss allegations on nuclear deals

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A lawyer for a family of three engineers, suspected of involvement in an alleged secret Libyan nuclear weapons programme before being recruited by the CIA, on Friday rejected a Swiss judge's allegations against them.

Federal judge Andreas Mueller in a report to Swiss authorities called for Friedrich Tinner and his sons Marco and Urs to be charged with violating a law on war materiel.

"I do not agree" with the judge's allegations, attorney Peter Volkart told AFP. He declined to comment further but confirmed in a statement the judge's accusations against the Tinners.

According to the judge, the three men, arrested in October 2004 in Germany and extradited to Switzerland in 2005, were implicated in the development of a nuclear weapons programme in Libya working with a secret Pakistani network.

They are suspected of helping Tripoli to develop centrifuges to enrich uranium from 2001 to 2003 and collaborating with the "father" of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan.

According to Le Temps newspaper Friday, judge Mueller believes he has "established" the fact that the Tinners were turned by the CIA and began working for the US spy agency starting in June 2003.

But he added that Swiss authorities refused to give him the necessary authority to investigate that, according to the paper.

The judge's report was handed in to the prosecutor general on Thursday, who is studying it and will decide whether or not to bring charges, a spokeswoman told AFP in an email.

When the three engineers were arrested in 2004 they allegedly possessed detailed plans for making nuclear weapons, but Swiss authorities later ordered the documents destroyed.

Media reports in 2008 said it was widely believed the Swiss acted to stop plans for nuclear bombs falling into the hands of hostile states, and The New York Times said Bern was under CIA pressure not to expose ties between the agency and the family.

The Times said the CIA recruited Urs Tinner in 2000, who in turn convinced his father and brother to join the espionnage activities to halt Libya, and also Iran, from gaining nuclear capability.

The paper quoted US and European officials as saying the Tinners played an active role in secret US operations to funnel sabotaged nuclear equipment into rogue state hands.

The CIA had declined to comment to the Times on the Tinner case but a spokesman called the disruption of Khan's Pakistani network "a genuine intelligence success".

Friedrich Tinner was released from custody in 2006 and his two sons were freed on bail by last year, allegedly after US pressure.

Libya agreed to abandon its nuclear weapons plans in 2003 under pressure from the West.

© 2010 AFP

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