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Dutch court orders chemical trader to pay Saddam gas victims

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

A Dutch businessman who sold Iraq's former regime chemicals that were used in deadly gas attacks against Kurds in Iraq and in Iran was ordered on Wednesday to pay 400,000 euros ($520,000) in compensation to some of the victims.

The court ruled that Frans van Anraat must pay 25,000 euros plus interest to each of the 16 plaintiffs in the case. A seventeenth suit was rejected because of a statute of limitations.

Van Anraat is currently serving a 17-year prison sentence on charges of complicity to war crimes in relation to the chemicals he sold to Saddam Hussein's regime between 1985 and 1989.

A Dutch court previously ruled that Van Anraat supplied the ingredients that enabled Ali-Hassan al-Majid, also known as "Chemical Ali", a senior member of the regime, to launch deadly mustard gas attacks during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.

Later they were also used on Iraq's own Kurdish population, most infamously in the massacre of 5,000 Kurds in 1988 at Halabja, northwest Iraq.

The plaintiffs in the civil case sought compensation "for the damage they suffered as a consequence of the bombings with mustard gas on cities in Iraq and Iran in the 1980s, executed by the Saddam Hussein regime," court documents said.

"At the time of the bombings, the plaintiffs, all civilians, were living in one of the bombed cities. As a result of the bombings, they came into contact with mustard gas and therefore, were (seriously) injured."

"Van Anraat supplied the raw materials for a chemical weapon to the Saddam Hussein regime, knowing that this weapon will be produced and implemented," the court said.

His "acts do not pale into significance beside the actual use of the weapon, but they form an essential link in the causal chain," it added.

Van Anraat's lawyer said however that his client was "unable to pay."

"He has no money," Hans Vermeer told AFP, adding he did not know whether Van Anraat would appeal.

The victims' lawyer, Liesbeth Zegveld, said they did not necessarily expect to be paid.

"The plaintiffs did this mainly out of principle," their lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld said.

"They wanted justice to recognise the evil that was done to them and for it to serve(as an example to) others in the future in similar cases," she told AFP.

"They (the plaintiffs) are happy. It has been a long process of waiting for them," Zegveld said.

Former chemicals trader Van Anraat was first arrested in Italy in 1989 on a United States warrant.

He later fled to Iraq where he lived for 14 years under an assumed name.

He remained in Iraq until US-led forces invaded the country in 2003, when he returned to the Netherlands, Dutch officials said. He was arrested there in December 2004 and has been in custody ever since.

Van Anraat previously claimed in his defence he did not know his business activities were illegal. Judges slapped down his argument saying he knew what he was doing when he supplied the Saddam regime with thiodiglycol, a key component in mustard gas.

"Chemical Ali" Majid, a key member in the regime and cousin to the dictator, was convicted in Iraq for his crimes and executed in January 2010.

Saddam himself was hanged in December 2006.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130424/dutch-court-orders-chemical-trader-pay-saddam-gas-victims-0