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Dutch Iraq war crimes case opens

by Mark5019 / March 18, 2005 7:02 AM PST

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands -- A Dutch court has opened hearings in the case of a businessman accused of helping former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein commit genocide by selling materials for chemical weapons to Baghdad.

Frans Van Anraat, 62, appeared in a Rotterdam court Friday to face charges of complicity in war crimes and genocide.

"It was known since the mid-1980s that the Iraqi government was using poison gas in the war against Iran and against its own population," Reuters quoted prosecutor Fred Teeven as saying as he outlined the charges at a pre-trial hearing.

Van Anraat faces up to life in prison if convicted.

The Dutch chemicals dealer is accused of supplying thousands of tons of raw materials for chemical weapons used in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

Baghdad also used chemical weapons against Iraqi Kurds, including a 1988 attack on the town of Halabja in which an estimated 5,000 people were killed.

The United Nations has described Van Anraat as "one of the most important middlemen in Iraq's acquisition of chemical material," Reuters reported prosecutors as saying.

Van Anraat has


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