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Survivors of nerve gas attack testify in Dutch Iraq genocide trial

Jeudi 1 decembre 2005 à 14h09

THE HAGUE, Dec 1 (AFP) — Survivors of a 1987 alleged Iraqi nerve gas attack on an Iranian town gave emotional testimony Thursday in the trial of a Dutch businessman accused of complicity in genocide for supplying chemical ingredients used by Saddam Hussein in attacks on Kurds in Iraq and Iran.

Frans Van Anraat, 63, is the first person to appear in court on genocide charges in connection with the 1988 poison gas attacks on the Kurdish town of Halabja in northern Iraq.

The massacre, which killed more than 5,000 people in a single day, also features among the preliminary charges against former Iraqi leader Saddam, currently on trial in Baghdad.

In addition Van Anraat is charged with aiding war crimes for alleged Iraqi chemical attacks on Kurdish towns in Iran.

In an emotional testimony Iranian Kurdish day laborer Gader Molanpoor told the court Wednesday that he lost his pregnant wife and three children in the attack on the town of Sardasht.

He was in a neighbouring village but his family was in Sardasht when the attack occurred.

"I saw my children, they could not stand up, they were dizzy, throwing up," he said.

In the days following the attack Molanpoor tried desperately to get medical help for his three children and heavily pregnant wife.

"They had eye problems and their skin burned ... nobody dared to touch them and I had to put them in the ambulance myself," he told the court, fighting back tears.

Eventually in the days after the attack he watched his whole family die one by one.

Molanpoor also got blisters on his hands as he tried to wash the chemicals off his children and still suffers from health problems as a result.

Leila Marouf Zadeh, a social worker from Sardasht, testified that she saw Iraqi planes attacking her town, dropping something that looked yellow and smelled of garlic and rotten apples.

"In the hospital I saw many people throwing up, with red skin, they were itching and after a while they got blisters and eventually their skin turned black," she told the court.

After a while she also started having complaints herself.

"My main problems were pain, blisters and blindness. My eyes hurt the worst, and my lungs," Marouf Zadeh said.

Her testimony was interrupted several times as she took medication for her various complaints.

In the 1980s Van Anraat acted as a sort of middle man buying chemicals on the world market and selling them on to Iraq despite export bans in place.

The materials he supplied included thiodiglycol and phosphorus oxychloride, both described as ingredients for mustard and nerve gases.

Van Anraat has admitted to selling the chemical components to Iraq, but maintains that he was not aware of the use to which they were put.

Earlier in the trial a prosecution expert witness testified that Van Anraat was the sole supplier of thiodiglycol to Iraq from 1985 onwards.

According to the chemicals expert, it was "the most logical to assume that from mid-1985 mustard gas used in attacks was made with ingredients supplied, among others, by Van Anraat."

If convicted he faces a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison.

The trial is expected to take another two weeks, with a verdict due on December 23.

Les informations ci-dessus de l'AFP n'engagent pas la responsabilité de l'Institut kurde de Paris.