Verdict and sentence: guilty, with father given 24 months, suspended sentence, and sons 50 and 41 months, with the time already served. The federal criminal court judges said they had reservations about the deal worked out with the Swiss attorney general, in particular about the light sentences considering the seriousness of the crimes. Also see: story by AP/NPR
BERN, SWITZERLAND – A Swiss family of engineers, the CIA, Libya and Iran nuclear proliferation, shredded files that reappeared: the Tinner family tale that began in 1998 will draw to a close Tuesday 25 September in Bellinzona, at the Swiss federal criminal court.
Few if any surprises are expected: the 75-year-old father Friedrich Tinner his two sons, Urs and Marco, from St Gallen, are expected to be found guilty and handed prison sentences requested by the Swiss public prosecutor and, at least for the sons, covered by time already served. They are likely to be given fines and court costs of close to half a million francs.
The father and sons were heard Monday by the criminal court over charges of breaking Swiss law governing war materials. The court then said it would re-convene Tuesday afternoon, saying it wanted time to reflect before giving its verdict.
The Tinners were charged only in December 2011 with breaking Swiss arms export laws, eight years after the case came to light. The brothers were imprisoned as a preventive measure for several months.
The public prosecutor’s office has said they were part of an operation run by Pakistani Abdul Qadeer Khan, who supplied nuclear parts and secrets to a network that included Libya.
Libya’s nuclear plans were revealed when the Tinner case came to light in 2003, and, largely as a result, Libya was forced to abandon its programme.
Court case slowed by fights over secret Tinner files
Specifically, the Tinners are accused of supplying to Khan’s black market network the technology used to make centrifuges, used to purify uranium for bombs and nuclear reactors.
The family of engineers last year agreed to a deal, according to the public prosecutor’s office, whereby they would serve a maximum of five years, but details of the arrangements were to remain secret.
In 2007 the Federal Council (cabinet) ordered the destruction of some of the papers concerning plans for nuclear weapons, that were part of the Tinner case files. A political tug of war over the documents ensued, resolved in July 2009 by a compromise between the cabinet and Bellinzona court, but a month later a special prosecutor was assigned to the case because of fears there had been a leak from within the court that had made public the tug of war.
The standoff created an uproar in Switzerland but also in the US, where the possibility of a trial was seen as opening a hornet’s nest for the CIA. RTS reports today that the Tinners, when asked in court Monday why they turned to the US government instead of their own Swiss government to say they had concerns about black market sales of their technology, said they wanted the information to be “in good hands”.
The Swiss government in 2009 forbade Douglas Frantz, former journalist and chief investigator for the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time, to talk to the lawyer for Urs Tinner.
One of the open questions linked to the case has been whether the family cooperated with the CIA, although a book published in 2010, jointly written by Frantz and his wife, details a relationship between the agency and the Swiss family.
The New York Times wrote in December 2010, “A seven-year effort by the Central Intelligence Agency to hide its relationship with a Swiss family who once acted as moles inside the world’s most successful atomic black market hit a turning point on Thursday when a Swiss magistrate recommended charging the men with trafficking in technology and information for making nuclear arms.”