The first EU citizen to be accused of involvement in genocide appeared in court Friday in the Netherlands in a case that is being closely watched by war crimes experts and human rights activists.
Under tight security, Frans van Anraat, 62, a Dutch businessman who is alleged to have helped Saddam Hussein gas the Kurds of Halabja in 1988, appeared for a pre-trial hearing in Rotterdam, facing charges of complicity in genocide and international war crimes.
His request to be released until the full trial opens in November was rejected by the court.
Van Anraat, who was arrested at his Amsterdam home last December, has yet to enter a plea to any of the charges.
Fred Teeven, the prosecutor, told the hearing that Van Anraat was fully aware that the chemicals he was supplying were being used for chemical weapons, adducing US, UN and Iraqi information to back up the allegation, as well as correspondence to and from Van Anraat.
"Van Anraat was conscious of ... the fact that his materials were going to be used for poison gas attacks," he said. "The damage and grief caused will not be rapidly, if ever, forgotten. What's more, the dossier contains very strong indications that the suspect calmly continued with the deliveries of ingredients after the gas attack on Halabja on March 16 1988."
The defense said that Van Anraat did not know what Iraq intended to do with the materials he provided, and that he stopped shipments to Iraq after the Halabja attack.
There was no convincing evidence linking the material he had supplied to chemical weapons used by Iraq.
The businessman was first detained in Milan in 1989 after a request from the US, but was released two months later.
He surfaced in Baghdad, which he made his home for 14 years under a new identity: Faris Mansoor Rashid al-Bazas. After the US-led invasion of Iraq, the portly bespectacled trader moved again in April 2003.