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Friday, August 04, 2006

Swiss court allows release of evidence in Libyan nuclear probe

Fri, 4 Aug 2006, 00:10

GENEVA: Switzerland's supreme court on Thursday cleared the way for legal assistance to German authorities investigating alleged smuggling of material for Libya's nuclear weapons programme in 2001 to 2003.

In a ruling released Thursday, the Federal Tribunal rejected an appeal by the owners of a South African company, who had sought to block the transfer of Swiss banking documents to Germany.

The couple, who were not named, were suspected of transferring funds to Swiss bank accounts after being commissioned to make parts for gas centrifuges to enrich uranium, according to the ruling.

They had received a one million euro (1.3 million dollars) advance payment in Dubai, the Swiss federal prosecutor's office charged.

The case is related to the trial in Germany of a 63 year-old German engineer, Gotthard Lerch, on charges of helping Libya's attempts to develop nuclear weapons.

Lerch, who was arrested last year in Switzerland, where he lived, has denied the accusations.

The network involving Lerch is alleged to have been part of the smuggling ring used by the disgraced father of Pakistan's nuclear programme, Abdul Qadeer Khan. Khan has been under house arrest in Pakistan since 2004.

Swiss prosecutors said Khan named the South African company when he admitted passing nuclear secrets to other states, according to the Swiss court documents.

The Pakistani scientist, who was identified as "Dr. Z" in the ruling, is alleged to have become involved in Libya's nuclear programme after he met a Libyan minister in Istanbul, Turkey, in 1997.

The German magazine Der Spiegel magazine reported in March that the United Nations nuclear watchdog suspects that Iran also obtained centrifuges through the Khan network.

Libya announced shortly after a shipment of equipment was intercepted in 2003 that it was giving up efforts to build nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
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