Van Anraat, sole chemical agent

19 December 2005 by HEIKELINA VERRIJN STUART

Dutch prosecutors needed eleven hours on 7 December for their closing arguments against Frans van Anraat, the Dutch citizen accused of complicity in genocide on trial before a federal court in The Hague for his sales of chemicals to the Saddam Hussein regime in the 1980's. After a three-week trial, the prosecution requested the maximum prison sentence of 15 years. The prosecutor argued that the 63- year old Dutchman had known that the thousands of tons of thiodiglycol (TDG) he supplied were converted to chemical weapons, which Iraq used to attack Iran and its own Kurdish population.

On 5 December, fifteen victims of mustard gas attacks in Iraq and Iran appeared in the Hague-based court to claim damages. The maximum amount victims can claim is 680.67 euros, which is largely symbolic. The court allowed them ample time to describe their ordeal, between bouts of coughing or sobbing: the white mist low over the ground, the smell of rotten garlic, the suffocating effect, the deep burns and the damage done to their lungs and skin and eyes. A man from Sardasht in Iran viewed the trial as "mental medicine" and another asked the judges to prevent "people from bringing about such misery again for the sole purpose of making money."

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