Chemical exporter 'knew' of genocide danger

18th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

18 March 2005, AMSTERDAM — Dutch businessman Frans van A. was aware that the raw materials he exported to Saddam Hussein's regime could be used in the production of chemical weapons, the public prosecutor told Rotterdam Court on Friday.

18 March 2005

AMSTERDAM — Dutch businessman Frans van A. was aware that the raw materials he exported to Saddam Hussein's regime could be used in the production of chemical weapons, the public prosecutor told Rotterdam Court on Friday.

Prosecutor Fred Teeven also claimed during the pre-trial hearing that file of evidence built up against Van A. indicated that he calmly went ahead with the supply of raw materials even though the Iraqi military had launched a devastating mustard gas attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja on 16 March 1988.

Van A., 62, has not denied selling chemical components to Iraq, but said he was not aware what they were used for.

He is accused of exporting thousands of tons of raw materials that Iraq used to manufacture chemical weapons between 1984 and 1988. Saddam's dictatorial regime used these weapons in the war against Iran (1980-88) and against the Kurds in northern Iraq.

Dozens of Kurdish activists demonstrated in front of the courthouse on Friday morning during the hearing. They showed gruesome photos of people killed and seriously injured by the gas attack on Halabja, news agency ANP reported. It is estimated at least 5,000 people were killed in the attack.

The Hague Court decided to transfer Thursday's pre-trial hearing to the high-security Rotterdam building due to safety concerns for the suspect, who was officially accused on Friday of complicity in genocide. If convicted, he faces maximum sentences of life imprisonment.

Van A. was first arrested in 1989 in Italy at the request of US authorities. After two months on remand, he was released pending extradition, but fled to Iraq, where he stayed until the US-led invasion in March 2003. He then fled to Syria and subsequently to the Netherlands, where he was re-arrested in December last year.

For as of yet unspecified reasons the US withdrew the request for his extradition, in 2000 and Dutch authorities had no grounds for arresting him until charges of being an accomplice in genocide and war crimes were brought against him, news agency AFP reported.

It is suspected that Van A. was operating as an informant for the Dutch security service AIVD when he was in Iraq. He was reportedly given a safe house by the AIVD upon his return to the Netherlands.

The case against Van A. has sparked controversy behind the scenes amid claims the Interior Ministry tried to prevent his prosecution, news service NOS reported.

Defence lawyer Willem van Schaik also indicated on Friday he would plead that Van A. was acting on behalf of the Dutch State and he claimed that his client had been afforded protection by the Interior Ministry.

Four Kurdish victims are expected to submit a damages claim for EUR 10,000 each against Van A. during his trial.

The court remanded Van A. in custody on Friday for an extra three months and scheduled in another pre-trial hearing on 10 June. His trial is expected to start in November.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Dutch news

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