7 December 2004
AMSTERDAM — A Dutchman has been arrested on suspicion he was involved in war crimes and genocide committed by ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
The Dutch public prosecutor’s office (OM) said on Tuesday that the man — identified only as 62-year-old Frans van A. — is accused of exporting thousands of tonnes of raw materials used in the production of chemical weapons to Iraq between 1984 and 1998. He was arrested in Amsterdam on Monday,
The chemical weapons — mustard gas and other nerve agents — were used by the former Iraqi regime in the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88) and in attacks on Kurds in northern Iraq. Thousands of Iranian soldiers and Iraqi civilians were killed in the attacks.
The prosecution said investigations indicate the suspect was involved in 36 shipments to Baghdad, including two shipments of factory components. The United Nations has described the Dutchman as one of the biggest players in Iraq’s drive to acquire chemical weapons.
It is alleged the man dealt directly with the Iraqi authorities and used various financial covers to conceal Iraq’s and his own involvement in the illegal trade. The suspect allegedly operated via a Panamanian company with a Swiss office.
US authorities launched an investigation several years ago that indicated the Dutchman was involved in four shipments of Thiodyglycol (TDG), a substance used to manufacture mustard gas. The materials were transported via the US to Europe, and via the harbours of Antwerp and Aqaba in Jordan to Iraq.
On request from the US, the man was arrested in January 1989 in Milan, Italy. After two months on remand, he was released pending extradition and fled to Iraq, where he stayed until the US-led invasion in March 2003. He then fled to Syria and subsequently to the Netherlands.
The Dutch prosecutor said various sources claim the suspect was aware of the intended use of the shipments. He is also reportedly the first Dutch person to be arrested for complicity in genocide.
“One of the most infamous attacks with chemical weapons is the destruction of the Kurdish city Halabja on 16 March 1998. During this attack an estimated 5,000 people were killed,” the prosecutor said in a press release.
The national prosecution office — which investigates organised crime and terrorism — has co-operated closely with the US, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Belgium and Jordan. The Dutch National Detectives Unit is conducting the investigation in co-operation with the finance investigation service FIOD-ECD.
The suspect has been charged with war crimes and complicity to genocide. He is expected to appear before a judge in Arnhem later this week, at which point a decision will be made whether to remand him in custody.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news