Nuclear Smuggling

Stephen Smith brings some very bad news

The middle-aged man sat with his head bowed, flattening his face against his palms. ‘Lots of tears, lovely stuff,’ murmured the cameraman. The presiding judge had given us permission to film ‘arrivals’ at the trial of 53-year-old Polish national Krzysztof Chmist, appearing in court with two fellow countrymen at Bochum in the German industrial region of the Ruhr. No evidence would be offered in the blond-wood courtroom until the camera was removed; in the event, the morning session had to be further delayed while a doctor was called for the distraught Chmist. He has been in custody since last October. He faces up to ten years in prison; so do Zbigniew Fiutkowski, a salesman said to trade in bananas and second-hand cars, and Jaroslaw Maslicz, a businessman. The German attorneys were a little vague about the exact law under which the Poles are being prosecuted, but then there has never been a case like it before. The three allegedly failed to surrender radioactive materials to the proper authorities. The long and the short of it, says the German Republic, is that they were trying to sell a seven-tonne atomic warhead: they were attempting to fence a rocket-top in the red-light district of Frankfurt.

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