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Twelve Germans Indicted in Iraqi Poison Gas Affair

March 12, 1991

BERLIN (AP) _ Twelve Germans were indicted Tuesday for aiding Iraq’s poison gas production, the latest in a series of reports of German aid to Saddam Hussein that have deeply embarassed the Bonn government.

For weeks, there have been nearly non-stop allegations of German companies shipping weapons to the Iraqi leader, raising criticism in the United States, Israel and other countries.

Darmstadt prosecutor Georg Nauth said the enormous interest in the cases led him to take the almost unheard-of step of announcing Tuesday’s indictments even before the defendants were notified.

″People were clamoring to know,″ Nauth said. ″The news media put us under so much pressure.″

Nauth said the 12 defendants, who have been under investigation since 1987, were charged with violating German export laws, fraud and breach of trust.

A company was also charged but Nauth declined to identify the defendants or the company.

″According to us, they delivered the material to produce poison gas,″ he said.

Prosecutors throughout Germany are investigating an array of allegations involving German companies and Iraq. They range from the alleged delivery of bomb rack parts to German help in extending the range of Saddam’s deadly Scud missiles so they could hit Israel.

The allegations prompted Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher to pledge further action to stop the ″merchants of death″ among German companies.

Germany isn’t the only European country questioning exports to Iraq.

The Netherlands launched an investigation Tuesday into allegations that Delft Instruments N.V. illegally sold American night vision technology to Iraq just before the Gulf War, Dutch authorities said.

Prosecutor’s spokesman Hans Vos said Delft has admitted that it sold two night vision systems to Iraq as recently as last April and one to Jordan in December.

Vos said investigators are determining whether to charge the company with violating a Dutch law banning the export of ″strategic goods″ to areas of unrest. But Delft said the sales took place through its Belgian subsidiary and were legal under Belgian law.

In Germany, prosecutor Nauth said some of the 12 defendants are charged with repeatedly violating Germany’s laws regulating materials that may be exported, a crime that brings up to three years in prison on each count.

One of the suspects is in jail, five others are out on bail and six are free on their own recognizance.

The indictment said several of the suspects even filed for compensation from the government for exports they said should not have been blocked, and then continued to export the material anyway.

Fraud carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.

News media reports repeatedly have said that two companies have also come under scrutiny in the case. They are the Pilot Plant company in Dreieich, just south of Frankfurt, and the Walter Engineering Trading company in Hamburg.

Iraq reportedly has produced mustard gas, tabun and other chemical weapons, although they apparently were not used in the Gulf War.

Update hourly