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Swiss family freed in Libya nuke case

Switzerland's highest court on Tuesday sentenced a family of Swiss engineers accused of helping Libya in its failed efforts years ago to build up a nuclear weapons programme.

But Friedrich Tinner, 70, and his two sons Marco and Urs were free to leave the Federal Court of Justice in Lausanne because of the length of time they had already served in detention and a plea bargaining agreement. 

Urs and Marco Tinner received sentences of 50 months and 41 months respectively, while Friedrich was given a 24-month suspended sentence for offences under the War Material Act.

The case began in the 1990s, when the Tinners started working with the global nuclear smuggling network of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the so-called father of the Pakistani atom bomb, who supplied Libya with nuclear weapons technology.

Swiss prosecutors launched a case against Marco, 43, and Urs, 46, in October 2004 and against their father the following year.

After their arrests in 2004 and 2005, the brothers spent three and four years in jail respectively awaiting trial, while their father was incarcerated for nearly two years.

Before sentencing, the defendants refused to talk about their collaboration with the CIA, which began when Urs contacted the US intelligence agency in 2003, the court heard.

The information they supplied pointed authorities to a German cargo ship that was stopped in the Mediterranean en route to Libya, media reports said.

Five containers filled with sensitive material were seized, effectively blocking Libya's nuclear ambitions.

The Tinners said they had not spoken to Swiss authorities because "the affair was in good hands", in reference to the United States.

The strange case was the subject of a book published last year by two US journalists, Catherine Collins and Douglas Frantz, called "Fallout", which tracks the way the United States secretly penetrated Khan's network to prevent Libya and Iran from obtaining nuclear secrets.

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DIPLOMACY

Iran summons Swiss envoy over US arrest of journalist

Iran's foreign ministry on Tuesday summoned the Swiss ambassador to Tehran to demand the unconditional and immediate release of a state television journalist detained in the United States.

Iran summons Swiss envoy over US arrest of journalist

Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said a note of complaint was issued to¬†the ambassador for Switzerland over the “inhuman and discriminatory” detention¬†of Iranian citizen and Press TV reporter Marzieh Hashemi.

The Swiss embassy in Tehran handles US interests in the Islamic republic after the two countries broke off relations following the 1979 Islamic revolution.

“Her immediate and unconditional release was demanded” at the meeting with the ambassador, Ghasemi added.

US-born Hashemi, who works for Iran's English-language Press TV, was arrested on arrival at St Louis Lambert International Airport on January 13th, according to family and friends cited by Press TV.

Hashemi, a Muslim convert who changed her name from Melanie Franklin, had reportedly been visiting her ill brother and other family members.

A US court on Friday confirmed the arrest, saying her testimony was required over an unspecified case but that she was not accused of a crime.

At a hearing in Washington, a judge ordered the partial unsealing of an order on Hashemi.

The court said Hashemi was arrested on “a material arrest warrant” and would be let go after she gave testimony to a grand jury investigating unspecified “violations of US criminal law”.

Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Thursday described the detention as a “political action” by the United States that “tramples on freedom of speech” and demanded she be set free.

Zarif said that since Hashemi was married to an Iranian she is considered as an Iranian national and “it is our duty to defend our citizens”.