THE HAGUE, Aug 9: At the request of the CIA, the Netherlands let go the father of Pakistan’s nuclear programme Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, who worked in the country between 1975 and 1986, former Dutch prime minister Ruud Lubbers told Dutch public radio on Tuesday.
Dr Khan worked as an engineer in the Netherlands at Urenco, a uranium enrichment plant. In 1975, Mr Lubbers, the then minister of economy, received information that Dr Khan was stealing secrets about the enrichment of uranium. He was never indicted for his activities because the CIA had asked the Netherlands to let him go, Lubbers told VPRO radio.
“The American intelligence services preferred not to arrest the man but to let him go. They thought: ‘give us all the information but do not hold that man. Let him go, we will follow him and get more information’,” Mr Lubbers said.
That same year Dr Khan probably felt his cover was blown because he never returned from a holiday to Pakistan.
Finally the Dutch authorities did open an investigation in 1979 that led to Dr Khan being sentenced in absentia in 1983 to four years in prison. His conviction was overturned on appeal because of procedural mistakes.
At that time there were still possibilities to continue with the proceedings against Dr Khan but the authorities again backed off at the request of the CIA, according to Mr Lubbers, who had by then become prime minister.
“We were in the middle of the Cold War, debating placement of medium-range missiles here. At that time I thought the final word about (Dr Khan’s prosecution) was not in The Hague but in Washington,” he said. —-AFP