Syrian arms dealer extradited to US on terror charges
New York, June 14, 2008
The Spanish government extradited a suspected Syrian arms dealer to the United States on Friday to answer charges of planning to supply weapons to Colombian rebels.
The United States accuses Monzer al-Kassar, 62, a long-time Spanish resident known as the 'Prince of Marbella' for his extravagant lifestyle, of planning to sell arms to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) to protect a cocaine-trafficking business and to attack US interests.
Kassar appeared in US District Court in Manhattan and pleaded not guilty to charges including conspiring to kill American nationals and officers, conspiring to acquire anti-aircraft missiles and providing support to a terrorist organization.
The Spanish government agreed to hand over Kassar after it received assurances from US authorities he would face neither the death penalty nor a life sentence with no chance of parole.
The US Embassy in Madrid said Kassar has been selling weapons since the 1970s to the Palestinian Liberation Front and clients in Nicaragua, Bosnia, Croatia, Iran, Iraq and Somalia.
A year ago, US officials announced that Kassar had been arrested at Madrid airport in Spain and unsealed his indictment. It said he knew the Farc kidnapped US citizens to dissuade American efforts to disrupt the cocaine trade.
The US government has designated the Farc as a foreign terrorist organization. The rebels have been fighting for socialist revolution since 1964 and have at times run large swathes of Colombia.
At the time of his arrest, prosecutors said Kassar had met with two confidential sources working with the US Drug Enforcement Administration at his home in Marbella and discussed the sale of weapons, including assault and sniper rifles and rocket propelled grenade launchers, to the Farc.
Prosecutors say Kassar told the sources the weapons would cost between 6 million and 8 million euros ($8 million to $10.6 million) and offered to send 1,000 men to fight with the Farc against US military officers.-Reuters