Nuclear secrets trial begins for German engineer

[JURIST] German engineer Gotthard Lerch [Iran Watch profile] went on trial in Mannheim, Germany, Friday on charges that he aided Libya’s abortive efforts to build a nuclear bomb. Lerch is widely known as a member of a clandestine network led by A.Q. Kahn [Wikipedia backgrounder], which investigators believe supplied Iran and North Korea with nuclear capabilities. Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear arms program, has admitted to running a lucrative underground nuclear market. Lerch was extradited to Germany from Switzerland in June and is the first member of Khan’s network to face trial. Several others have been arrested [Washington Post report] in connection to the Khan network.

Prosecutors charged Lerch with breaking arms and exports laws by aiding the Libyan nuclear program between 1999 and 2003, a crime punishable by up to fifteen years in jail. Lerch’s lawyers have stated that the court prohibited them from taking notes on secret files and did not clarify whether the lawyers could use evidence from those files in court. The prosecution claims that Lerch received approximately $34 million for overseeing procurement of gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment and their delivery to Libya. Lerch was arrested in November after the International Atomic Energy Agency [official website] mentioned Lerch in their investigations after a German-registered freighter carrying components for the enrichment plant was intercepted on its way to Libya in 2003. AP has more.

 

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