Prosecutors said on Tuesday they will charge a Dutch chemicals dealer as an accomplice to genocide for supplying Saddam Hussein with lethal chemicals used in the 1988 chemical attack on a Kurdish town that killed an estimated 5,000 civilians.
Wim de Bruin of the national prosecutor’s office said the suspect, who was arrested in Amsterdam on Monday, will face charges “for violating the laws of war and involvement in genocide.”
Prosecutors said Frans van Anraat, a 62-year-old chemicals dealer, had been a suspect since 1989, when he was arrested in Milan, Italy, at the request of the U.S. government. But he was later released and fled to Iraq, where he remained until 2003. After the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, he returned to the Netherlands via Syria.
“The man is suspected of delivering thousands of tons of raw materials for chemical weapons to the former regime in Baghdad between 1984 and 1988,” prosecutors said in a statement.
Authorities in the United States, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and Jordan helped in the investigation, and witnesses were interviewed in Britain, Denmark, Jordan and the Netherlands, prosecutors said.
In a 2003 interview with Dutch television program Netwerk, van Anraat said he had shipped materials to Iraq but denied any wrongdoing.
“This was not my main business, this was something I did in passing,” he said.
“Somewhere once back then, I got the request whether I could deliver certain products to them, which they needed,” he said. “And because I had a very good relationship with the (Iraqi) Oil Ministry, and that’s where the request came from, I tried to see if I could do it. And that was successful and we did deliver some materials.”
Around 5,000 killed
An estimated 5,000 people were killed and another 10,000 injured by the poisonous bombs Iraqi forces dropped on the Kurdish city of Halabja on March 16, 1988.
The United Nations suspects van Anraat was a major chemical supplier to Saddam’s regime, having made 36 separate shipments, including mustard gas and nerve gas originating from the United States and Japan, prosecutors said.
The chemicals where shipped via Antwerp, Belgium, through Aqaba in Jordan before reaching Iraq, the prosecution statement said.
The chemicals also have industrial uses in the textile industry — though they are not needed in the volumes van Anraat is accused of shipping.
A trial date was not set.
Saddam is also awaiting a trial date after being arraigned July 1 in Baghdad on charges including the attack on Halabja; killing rival politicians over 30 years; invading Kuwait in 1990; and ordering the killing of tens of thousands of Shiites and Kurds who rose up against him in 1991 following the Gulf War that liberated Kuwait from Iraqi occupation.
“The (Halabja) attack is an example of Hussein’s policy of systematic destruction of the Kurdish population,” prosecutors said in van Anraat’s indictment. “It appears from official Iraqi documents that the operation was intended by Hussein’s government to wipe out the Kurds.”