Dutch Man Appeals War Crimes Conviction

The Associated Press
Monday, April 2, 2007; 6:59 PM

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- A Dutch businessman appealing his war crimes conviction denied Monday that he knew chemicals he sold to Saddam Hussein's regime would be used to make poison gas.

Frans van Anraat, 64, is petitioning to overturn a 15-year prison sentence handed down in December 2005 for selling tons of chemicals made into mustard and nerve gas that was unleashed on Kurdish villages in northern Iraq in 1987-88 and against Iran during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

While Van Anraat appealed his conviction of complicity in war crimes, prosecutors appealed his acquittal of complicity in genocide, which carries a maximum 30-year sentence.

The case was unusual because it involved a Western businessman and was tried in a European national court for war crimes in Iraq.

Under questioning by three appeals judges, Van Anraat said he had not known the purpose of the chemicals he shipped to Iraq. He dismissed as "nonsense" testimony by his former Japanese business partner that Van Anraat knew how the chemicals would be used.

When judges pointed out a telegram describing the chemical with "mustard gas" in parenthesis, Van Anraat said he hadn't read it.

He said his customer was the Iraq Oil Ministry, but said he didn't deliver the chemicals he purchased from a U.S. company directly to the ministry. Instead, he left them "in transit" at the port of Trieste, Italy, without knowing their ultimate destination.

"I didn't supply the Iraqi government, that's just nonsense," he said.

His defense lawyers are expected to argue that Van Anraat has been singled out unfairly for prosecution among many businesses and governments that helped Saddam make and use chemical weapons.

The defense had sought to take depositions from Saddam and his cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, also known as "Chemical Ali."

Saddam was hanged Dec. 30 by Iraqi authorities in an unrelated case. Al-Majid is on trial in Baghdad, where prosecutors on Monday called for the death penalty for him and four co-defendants for their role in Operation Anfal, in which more than 100,000 Kurds were killed.

At Van Anraat's trial, judges at the Hague District Court found he had used a network of shell companies to hide the chemical sales because he knew that they were illegal and that the chemicals would be used for killing.

They acquitted him of complicity in genocide, however, finding he did not know specifically that the chemicals would be used against Kurds.

Judges gave him the maximum sentence, saying he was driven by greed and showed no remorse.

Prosecutors are expected to argue Van Anraat was complicit in genocide since he continued seeking to sell chemicals to Iraq even after hearing of the gas attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja on March 16, 1988, in which about 5,000 were killed using chemicals he supplied.

© 2007 The Associated Press