A Dutchman accused of supplying the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein with chemicals used in attacks on Kurdish villages in the 1980s goes on trial Monday on changes of complicity in genocide. Frans van Anraat, 63, allegedly shipped hundreds of tons of chemical components to Iraq from 1986 to 1988 that were used to manufacture deadly mustard and nerve gas.
The defendant has acknowledged selling chemicals to Saddam's Iraq, but claims his actions were legitimate business deals.
His indictment says the lethal gas was used in attacks on the villages of Halabja, Goptata, Birjinni and Zewa, which Dutch prosecutors have said were intended to wipe out the ethnic Kurdish population in whole or in part and constitute genocide.
Saddam's regime is accused of killing some 180,000 Kurds. The poison gas attack on Halabja alone killed 5,000 Kurdish guerrillas and civilians on March 16, 1988. The attacks are among war crimes allegations being prepared against Saddam, but are not part of his first trial due to resume later this month in Baghdad.
The Halabja poison attack was launched during the Iraq-Iran war as part of a crackdown on Kurdish guerrillas allied with Iranians in the border town, thus threatening to open up a breech in the Iraqi front line. Saddam's army later reoccupied the town.
Survivors of the gas attacks will be among witnesses to testify in Van Anraat's trial in the coming weeks. A verdict is expected in late December.
Van Anraat eluded justice for years even though at one point he topped the CIA's most wanted list and was detained at the request of U.S. authorities in Italy in 1989. He was released by an Italian judge who ruled the charges were politically motivated, He returned to the Netherlands after years in Iraq following the collapse of Saddam's regime with the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, reports the AP. I.L.