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Last Updated: Friday, 23 December 2005, 15:35 GMT
Saddam's 'Dutch link'
Iraqi chemical bombs awaiting destruction, 1998
The Iraqi regime used chemical bombs in a number of attacks
Frans van Anraat was living openly under his own name when he was arrested in an Amsterdam suburb in late 2004, after an international investigation.

Now 63, he has become the first man convicted in connection with alleged war crimes committed against Kurds in Iraq and Iran.

Van Anraat was convicted of complicity in war crimes but cleared of genocide.

He arrived home in the Netherlands in 2003, ending decades of involvement with Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq.

Previously, he had fled from Italy to Iraq in 1989.

His relationship with the deposed Iraqi leader led Dutch prosecutors to accuse him of directly supplying thousands of tons of base materials for chemical weapons used in the 1980s.

Halabja massacre

The United Nations suspected van Anraat was a major chemical supplier to the regime.

Some of those chemicals were allegedly used in the 1988 bombing of Halabja in northern Iraq, which killed an estimated 5,000 civilians in a single day.

The attack on the mainly Kurdish town was part of Saddam Hussein's wider campaign against the Kurds and was one of his worst atrocities.

Van Anraat will now serve 15 years in prison for his role in the supply chain.

This was not my main business, this was something I did in passing
Frans van Anraat

Chemical weapons were also used by the Iraqi army against Iranian forces in their 1980-1988 war.

Van Anraat, dubbed "Chemical Frans", did not deny supplying the chemicals, but says he did not know what they were to be used for.

In a 2003 interview with Dutch television program Netwerk, van Anraat said: "This was not my main business, this was something I did in passing," the Associated Press news agency quoted him as saying.

"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."

Long investigation

However, prosecutors alleged that van Anraat was aware of the final purpose for the materials he supplied.

"From different sources it can be deduced that the suspect was aware of the destination and the final purpose for the base materials supplied by him," the prosecutor's office told the AFP news agency.

Tombstones at a memorial site for the 1988 bombing of Halabja
Thousands of people died in the bombing of Halabja

Among the chemicals van Anraat was accused of supplying was thiodiglycol, a chemical solvent used in the textile industry and in the manufacture of mustard gas.

He was found guilty of arranging 36 shipments - a total of 538 tons - from the US via the Belgian port of Antwerp, through Aqaba in Jordan to Iraq.

Prosecutors said van Anraat had been a suspect since 1989, when he was arrested in Milan at the request of the US Government.

He was released pending a decision on his extradition, and fled to Iraq, where he remained until 2003.

After the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, he returned to the Netherlands.

Media reports suggest his bags were packed when Dutch police entered his home to arrest him in December 2004.

He was thought to be the first Dutchman to face genocide charges, but was cleared on those counts, despite the court ruling that the chemical attack on the Kurds was genocide.

SEE ALSO
Dutchman held for 'Iraq genocide'
07 Dec 04 |  Middle East
Light shed on Saddam motivations
07 Oct 04 |  Middle East
Report concludes no WMD in Iraq
07 Oct 04 |  Middle East
Iraq's most wanted
05 Sep 04 |  Middle East
Q&A: The weapons evidence
20 Jul 04 |  UK Politics
Eyewitness: Halabja gas attack
16 Mar 03 |  Middle East

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