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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dutchman Charged in Iraq Arms Case

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- A Dutch businessman sold chemicals to Iraq knowing Saddam Hussein would use them to carry out poison gas attacks that killed thousands of people, prosecutors said at the start of his trial on Monday.

Frans van Anraat, 63, is charged with complicity in war crimes and genocide for supplying agents for poison gas used by Iraq in the 1980-1988 war with Iran and against its own Kurdish population, including a 1988 attack on the town of Halabja.

"He is being accused of delivering raw materials necessary to build Saddam Hussein's chemical weapons. The use of those weapons by the regime in Baghdad led to death of thousands in Iraq and Iran," prosecutor Fred Teeven told the court.

"He is complicit in serious international crimes."

The court, packed with relatives of Halabja victims and members of Kurdish organizations, overruled arguments by defense lawyers that the case was inadmissible as Saddam himself was on trial for war crimes in Baghdad. Saddam has denied all charges in his trial, which began in October.

Van Anraat, with a shock of white hair and wearing a dark blue cardigan and white shirt, sat impassively, arms crossed.

Asked by the presiding judge whether he wanted to comment, Van Anraat said: "I am leaving everything to my lawyer."

A small group outside the Hague court displayed photographs of Kurdish victims of chemical weapons and held a red banner reading "Genocide Never Again."

The Halabja attack on March 16, 1988, killed an estimated 5,000 people.

"I hope he gets a life sentence," said Amir Gadir of Victims of Genocide Against Kurds in Halabja.

Van Anraat said he did not know Iraq intended to use the raw materials he provided for chemical weapons, according to a statement he gave in December that was read in court.

His lawyers said there was no convincing evidence linking material Van Anraat supplied to chemical weapons used by Iraq. "The prosecution will have to prove the raw materials were used in weapons and that these weapons were used in the village to come to a conviction," lawyer Jan Peter van Schaik said.

United Nations weapons inspectors have said Van Anraat was an important middleman supplying Iraq with chemical agents.

The first Dutchman to be tried on genocide-related charges, Van Anraat faces up to life in prison if convicted. The trial is expected to last about three weeks. A verdict is due on Dec. 23.

Iranian and Iraqi victims of chemical attacks plan to claim compensation equal to around 10,000 euros ($11,690) each from the men accused of supplying them.

"Ten of my relatives died. My parents, sisters and brothers were wounded," said Danya Mohammad, 28, one of 16 Halabja victims who have launched a separate suit against Van Anraat.

Prosecutors accuse the Dutchman of shipping chemicals from the United States to Belgium, and from there to Iraq via Jordan.