Dutch Businessman Helped Saddam Genocide.

A Dutch businessman accused of complicity in war crimes and genocide for selling chemicals to Iraq knew Saddam Hussein would use them for poison gas attacks, prosecutors said on Friday.

Frans van Anraat, 62, is charged with supplying thousands of tons of agents for poison gas that Saddam's military used in the 1980-1988 war against Iran and against its own Kurdish population, including an attack on the town of Halabja in 1988.

Prosecutor Fred Teeven told a pre-trial hearing at the high-security court in Rotterdam that Van Anraat continued to supply chemicals after the Halabja attack, which killed an estimated 5,000 people 17 years ago this week.

``Van Anraat was conscious of ... the fact that his materials were going to be used for poison gas attacks,'' he said.

``The damage and grief caused will not be rapidly, if ever, forgotten.'' The defense said Van Anraat did not know what Iraq intended to do with the materials he provided and stopped shipments to Iraq after the Halabja attack. There was no convincing evidence linking material he supplied to chemical weapons used by Iraq.

Saddam and his feared cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, also known as ``Chemical Ali,'' face trial for war crimes, including the Halabja attack, at a special tribunal in Iraq.

U.N. weapons inspectors have called Van Anraat one of the most important middlemen who supplied Iraq with chemical agents.

The first Dutchman to be tried on genocide-related charges, Van Anraat, who sat silently in court, faces up to life in prison if convicted. The next hearing has been scheduled for June. His trial is expected to begin later this year.

Shocked by Halabja

Iranian and Iraqi victims of chemical attacks plan to seek up to 10,000 euros ($13,430) compensation each from the accused, a lawyer for the group said, while a group of Kurds demonstrated outside the court, holding pictures of Halabja victims.

``It was a black page in Kurdish history,'' said Sherzad Rozbayani, a member of a Kurdish students union.

Iraqi forces attacked Halabja after it was captured by Iranian troops in what Baghdad saw as betrayal by local Kurds. The attack gained international notoriety after Iran invited foreign journalists to see the town, still strewn with bodies.

Van Anraat was first detained in Milan in 1989 following a U.S. request but was released after two months. He then fled to Iraq, where it is thought he stayed until the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, when he returned to the Netherlands through Syria.

The AIVD Dutch secret service provided Van Anraat with a mobile phone and helped him find housing when he returned to the Netherlands in 2003 and assured him he would not face prosecution, his lawyers said. He was arrested by Dutch officials at a house in Amsterdam in December as he was preparing to leave the country.

``The images of the gas attack on the Kurdish city Halabja were a shock. But I did not give the order to do that. How many products, such as bullets do we make in the Netherlands?'' Van Anraat said in a 2003 interview with Dutch magazine Nieuwe Revu.

The United States said Iraq's suspected weapons of mass destruction were one of its main reasons for going to war in 2003, but it has yet to discover significant stockpiles.

A criminal investigation by U.S. customs authorities a few years ago found that Van Anraat had been involved in four shipments to Iraq of an industrial chemical used in mustard gas.

Prosecutors say they have evidence that Van Anraat attempted to cover up the final destination of his exports, that Iraq paid money into his Swiss bank accounts and that materials he helped to supply ended up at an Iraqi plant for poison gas.

[Source: By Reuters, NY Times, NY, 18Mar05]

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