- - Tuesday, September 18, 2012

BERLIN — Three Swiss engineers accused of participating in a global nuclear smuggling ring are set to avoid further prison time, in part because they helped the CIA bust the network that was supplying Libya’s atomic weapons program.

Prosecution documents released Tuesday outline a plea bargain under which Urs Tinner, 46; his brother Marco, 43; and their 74-year-old father, Friedrich, would accept the charges against them in return for prison terms that are shorter than the time they have already spent in investigative custody.

The documents also shed light on the U.S. intelligence agency’s successful operation to destroy the nuclear smuggling network of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the architect of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program.

Friedrich Tinner had longstanding contacts to Mr. Khan dating back to 1975, according to Swiss prosecutors.

The two continued to do business — with Friedrich Tinner supplying equipment and expertise for uranium enrichment to Mr. Khan — even after Pakistan detonated its first nuclear bomb in 1998.

Mr. Khan built up an international network selling equipment to countries with nuclear weapons ambitions, including Libya and Iran.

Prosecutors said all three of the accused were involved in the smuggling ring and supplied key equipment and blueprints for the production of gas centrifuges that are needed to enrich uranium to weapons grade levels.


China hints at leniency for former cop

CHENGDU — China signaled Tuesday it will be lenient with a former police chief enmeshed in a political scandal roiling the country’s leadership, saying he cooperated with investigators who brought down a top Chinese politician’s wife for the murder of a British businessman.

Tuesday’s conclusion of Wang Lijun’s trial brings Chinese leaders a step closer to resolving a scandal that exposed seamy infighting and buffeted a delicate transfer of power to new leaders expected to take place in coming weeks.

Mr. Wang sparked the turbulent affair with a dramatic flight to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu in February, where he divulged information about the murder, resulting in the removal of his boss, Bo Xilai, once a political high-flier vying for a top job.

Mr. Wang faces charges of defection, bending the law for personal gain, bribery and abuse of power, most stemming from his consulate escapade and initial cover-up of the murder.

In summarizing the two-day trial, a spokesman for the Intermediate People’s Court in Chengdu city said prosecutors noted that Mr. Wang’s surrender to authorities and ultimate cooperation may merit lighter punishment.

The crimes he faces are generally punishable by up to 10 years in prison, with a 20-year maximum for consecutive sentences, though sentencing guidelines allow for life imprisonment or the death penalty in egregious cases.

In laying the ground for a lenient sentence for Mr. Wang, Chinese leaders, who control the justice system, appear to have reached agreement over the thorniest issue — how to deal with Mr. Bo, said Willy Lam of Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Leaders must decide whether to expel Mr. Bo from the party and prosecute him, and differences are believed to have delayed the announcement of dates for a Communist Party congress to install the new leadership.


Truth panel to probe only dictatorship crimes

SAO PAULO — Brazil’s Truth Commission says it will only investigate human rights abuses under the country’s former dictatorship, not the crimes allegedly committed by opponents of the 1964-1985 regime.

The commission said Tuesday on its website that it has been told to investigate only the torture, murder and forced disappearances carried out by government agents of people opposed to the dictatorship.

Retired Adm. Ricardo Antonio da Veiga Cabral said the commission’s decision will result in an “unfinished, one-side investigation in which only half the truth will be known.”

He said “crimes were committed by both sides, so both sides must be investigated.”

Retired officers often express the opinion of the armed forces since military personnel are prohibited by law from doing so publicly.


Security panel concerned about instability in Yemen

The U.N. Security Council expressed concern Tuesday over a campaign to “undermine” Yemen’s interim government and a widening humanitarian crisis in the country.

The 15-nation panel discussed Yemen as tens of thousands of people staged protests in Sanaa to demand an end to immunity for ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The country also has been rocked by attacks from al Qaeda and other militant groups against government officials.

The Security Council and the U.N. envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, expressed support for President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi and concern at “ongoing attempts to undermine the transition process,” said Peter Wittig, Germany’s U.N. ambassador and council president for September.

The council wants a “comprehensive and inclusive national dialogue should begin without delay, in order to lay the foundations for a stable and unified Yemen,” Mr. Wittig told reporters after the meeting.


Premier to reopen probe of president

ISLAMABAD — Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf told the Supreme Court on Tuesday that the government would comply with a long-standing demand to reopen an old corruption case against the president, defusing a conflict that has roiled the country’s political system and led to the ouster of the last premier.

President Asif Ali Zardari is likely in little immediate danger from the case in Switzerland, where he is recognized as enjoying immunity from prosecution as a foreign head of state.

But the decision came as somewhat of a surprise to many in Pakistan, given that the government had refused for months to follow the court’s order to write a letter to Swiss authorities asking them to reopen the case.

Both sides have come under public criticism for focusing on the case rather than dealing with what are perceived as more serious problems facing the country, such as the weak economy, pervasive electricity shortages and a bloody Taliban insurgency.

Pakistani Law Minister Farooq Naek recently traveled to Switzerland to talk to officials about the case, and analysts said the government may have decided the risk of the Swiss reopening the proceedings was low enough to write a carefully worded letter.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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