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Germany

German Engineer Jailed for Aiding Libya's Nuclear Program

A German court sentenced a 65-year-old engineer to five-and-a-half years in prison Thursday for advancing Libya's now-abandoned plans to make its own nuclear bombs.

Graphic of the nuclear symbol in rainbow colors

Libya has abandoned its nuclear work

Defense lawyers said they expected this would mean Gotthard Lerch could be set free immediately, after deduction of automatic parole and credit for 21 months he spent in pre-trial custody and for the months spent in court.

Earlier this month, Lerch admitted he advised the Libyans on how to build a piping system for a uranium-enrichment plant.

Prosecutor Wolfgang Siegmund said earlier Thursday the defendant helped Libyan interests, but had not been a member of an international network of nuclear smugglers led by the rogue Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.

US and German intelligence agents uncovered the plans to export the piping system, earlier media reports said. Libya has since abandoned its nuclear ambitions.

The defendant was convicted of breaching German laws restricting exports of militarily useful products.

Defendant endangered international peace

A previous trial which began in July 2006 had to be called off after the bomb plans -- regarded as evidence by the defense team -- were shredded by Swiss authorities.

Under an agreement with the defense to settle with a compromise, prosecutor Siegmund dropped an allegation that the defendant was the builder and supplier of a gas ultra centrifuge system to refine uranium for Libya's bomb.

Siegmund, who pressed for a six-year prison term, said Thursday that Libya in fact came nowhere close to making its own bomb, but the defendant's actions had endangered international peace.

The Abdul Qadeer Khan network allegedly supplied equipment to Iran, Libya and North Korea using front companies in South Africa and Malaysia.

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