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Cablegate: Defendant Testifies On Relationship with A.Q. Khan In

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHFT #2272 2031416
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 211416Z JUL 08
FM AMCONSUL FRANKFURT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7385
INFO RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEHSA/AMEMBASSY PRETORIA IMMEDIATE 1601
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD IMMEDIATE 4322
RUEHKL/AMEMBASSY KUALA LUMPUR IMMEDIATE 0240

UNCLAS FRANKFURT 002272

DEPARTMENT FOR T, EUR, ISN, SCA, AF, EAP

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PARM MNUC PREL KNNP ETTC KJUS KCRM PREL GM
SUBJECT: Defendant Testifies on Relationship with A.Q. Khan in
Export Control Trial

REF: A. 07 BERLIN 2239
B. 06 BERLIN 2194
C. 06 BERLIN 1170
D. 08 Frankfurt 1817

Sensitive but unclassified; not for internet distribution.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: In the ongoing trial of Gotthard Lerch, the
defendant unexpectedly testified in his own defense on July 11,
denying any role in the activities of Pakistani nuclear scientist
A.Q. Khan. Lerch said he agreed to speak in his own defense after
reading an avalanche of false accusations in the media, which have
portrayed him as a "merchant of death." Efforts by his attorney to
have the public removed from the courtroom were rejected by the
presiding judge. END SUMMARY.

LERCH REVERSES DECISION NOT TO TESTIFY
--------------------------------------

2. In an unexpected move, Gotthard Lerch testified in his own
defense before the fourth senate of the Higher Regional Court in
Stuttgart on July 11. The 55-year old engineer reversed his earlier
decision, saying that he wanted to correct misleading and malicious
press reports. He pointed to one newspaper headline that
characterized his as a "merchant of death." Lerch is accused of
aiding the Libyan government in its efforts to acquire nuclear
weapons technology (see reftels).

3. Lerch testified that he had been employed at Leybold-Heraeus in
Hanau, Germany from 1972-85 and that A.Q. Khan had been among a
Pakistani delegation that visited the firm in 1976. Lerch said that
several members of the delegation had been educated or had received
training in nuclear technology in Germany. Leybold-Heraeus
negotiated an agreement to sell vacuum technology to Pakistan, to be
used to develop nuclear energy. As a result, Lerch and others
traveled numerous times to Pakistan between 1977 and 1981. Lerch
said he traveled there twice a year to provide technical advice
while sales contracts were finalized. He admitted that in the
course of these visits he got to know A.Q. Khan, however, he
rejected allegations that he had established an exceptionally close
relationship with Khan.

NO KNOWLEDGE OF NATURE OF DEALS
-------------------------------

4. Lerch denied any specific knowledge about the nature of the
business deals, arguing that the sales contracts were handled by the
sales department of Leybold Heraeus. Prosecutor Wolfgang Siegmund
asked if Lerch ever had doubts about the intentions of the
Pakistanis, prompting Lerch to respond that it never crossed his
mind that the he was doing anything more than developing nuclear
energy technology. Lerch failed to explain how he could have no
knowledge of the nature of the deals while at the same time
providing technical advice on the sales items.

5. During the testimony, Lerch's attorney, Gottfried Reims,
repeatedly asked to have the public expelled from the courtroom,
arguing that his client would reveal sensitive information in the
course of the trial. The requests were rejected. Lerch will
testify on his career after 1985 in subsequent testimony.

6. COMMENT: During a conversation with the Federal Prosecutor's
Office in Karlsruhe, a Congen representative learned that the trial
will continue to be open to the public and that the requests for a
non-public hearing are regarded as a tactic to delay progress of the
trial. Lerch's own decision to testify after earlier claims that he
would not reveals a change in strategy, although it has not yet been
of clear benefit to his defense. END COMMENT.

7. This cable was coordinated with Embassy Berlin.
POWELL

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