Page last updated at 15:15 GMT, Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Iraqi Kurd poison gas victims sue for damages

Dutch businessman Frans van Anraat
Frans van Anraat was convicted of complicity in war crimes in 2005

A court in the Netherlands is hearing a case by Kurdish victims of poison gas attacks in northern Iraq in the 1980s.

They want compensation from a Dutch businessman, who sold chemicals - which were used against the Kurds - to Saddam Hussein's government.

Frans van Anraat, 67, was convicted in the Netherlands in 2005 of war crimes and sentenced to 16-and-a-half years in jail.

Other courts have refused to award damages to the 16 victims.

The courts have said that it would be too difficult to get the money from Van Anraat, who says he spent all his cash fleeing from country to country after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

More than 5,000 people were killed in March 1988 when Saddam Hussein ordered an attack on the Kurdish Iraqi town of Halabja, as part of a campaign to crush a Kurdish rebellion.

Some of the survivors were left permanently disabled, suffering lung damage, blindness and skin diseases.

Van Anraat was convicted of complicity in war crimes, but cleared of genocide at his trial four years ago.

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