Swiss men with CIA links face nuclear secrets trial

A judge yesterday called for the prosecution of three Swiss engineers suspected of smuggling nuclear weapons technology following allegations that the US pressured Switzerland to destroy incriminating evidence to conceal their work for the CIA.

Swiss federal magistrate Andreas Mueller made his recommendations at the end of a six-year investigation into the activities of engineers Urs Tinner, his brother Marco and their father Friedrich, who were arrested in 2004 on suspicion of smuggling but later released. They said they had worked for the CIA since 2003 as informers.

The three are suspected of supplying technology to a nuclear smuggling ring in Pakistan run by Abdul Qadeer Khan, a nuclear scientist reputed to be the "father" of Pakistan's atomic bomb. Mr Khan, who now lives under government surveillance in Pakistan, is suspected of having aided Iran, Libya and North Korea with uranium enrichment programmes.

The Tinners are alleged to have played a bizarre dual role as nuclear weapons smugglers who at the same time worked for the CIA as informers and banked on the agency's protection. "There are many parts," Mr Mueller said yesterday. "It's like a puzzle and if you put the pieces together, you get the whole picture."

The Tinners claim to have helped supply the CIA with information about nuclear projects in Libya. They also admit to working for the Khan network and according to independent US reports they supplied the CIA with key information about its activities.

But they claim not to have known that Mr Khan's aim was to produce nuclear weapons and they deny having supplied him with the relevant technology.

Allegations that the US had pressured Switzerland to bury the case against the Tinners surfaced in 2008, after the Swiss government ordered 100 pages of evidence against them to be shredded. Copies of the documents have since reappeared.