Swiss to investigate shredding of files in nuclear smuggling case

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

BERN, Switzerland: A powerful Swiss parliamentary committee is investigating why files in a high-profile nuclear smuggling case were secretly destroyed on government orders last year, officials said Tuesday.

The parliamentary committee charged with overseeing intelligence issues said it will collect further evidence on how the files were destroyed and publish a report before the fall.

Last week the Swiss government acknowledged for the first time that sensitive documents linked to Libya's now-abandoned effort to build an atomic bomb were shredded for security reasons.

The documents formed part of a criminal case against three members of a Swiss family of engineers accused of involvement in the nuclear smuggling ring of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the "father" of Pakistan's atomic weapons program.

The destruction of the documents — and the secrecy surrounding the decision — has caused an uproar in Switzerland. Senior legal experts have questioned why documents relating to a pending court case were destroyed.

In its statement Tuesday, the cross-party Parliamentary Control Delegation said it informed the government that it disagreed with the destruction of the documents and that it attaches "great importance to this investigation, which will be treated with priority."

President Pascal Couchepin said Friday the documents were destroyed for reasons of security and international relations after federal prosecutors discovered they contained construction plans for nuclear weapons, uranium enrichment equipment and guided missile systems.

The documents were destroyed under the observation of the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency, he said.

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