Saturday, October 27, 2007

U.S. Extradition For Arms Dealer

The name of Monzer Al-Kassar (pictured right) is one that has defined the shadowy world of international arms dealing and covert intelligence operations for nearly 3 decades.

Living in the opulence that this lucrative market allows at his luxurious villa in the Spanish sunshine, the US has convinced the Spanish authorities that Al-Kassar should face trial in the US on charges of supplying weapons to the the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia - deemed a terrorist group by the US.

Readers of the Lockerbie disaster will be only too familiar with his name, as will those who remember Oliver North and the Iran/Contra scandal. The Tower Commission which investigated the scandal in the US, heard North admit that the US had paid Al-Kassar $1.5m to supply the Iranians with weapons during the Iran Iraq war.

It has also been rumoured that Al-Kassar was being used by the US as an 'asset' in their negotiations to free the American hostages being held in Beruit during the 1980's.


A Spanish court on Friday agreed to allow the extradition to the United States of a Syrian-born arms dealer charged with conspiring to sell weapons to a Colombian terrorist group and conspiring to kill Americans.

A spokesman for Spain's National Court, which handles terrorism cases, said judges agreed to grant the U.S. extradition request for Monzer al Kassar, who was arrested in Madrid in June.

Kassar, who has been fighting extradition, can appeal to a larger panel of judges at the same court, but the Spanish government will still have the final say.

Police arrested Kassar in June as he arrived at Madrid's airport from the southern Spanish city of Malaga. Two other men were arrested in Romania as part of the same case and were extradited to the United States last week.

The U.S. Embassy in Madrid said Kassar and the men conspired to sell millions of dollars' worth of weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which the United States has designated a terrorist organization.

The weapons included surface-to-air missile systems, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, thousands of machine guns, and millions of rounds of ammunition, the embassy said.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York charged Kassar with five counts: conspiracy to provide material aid to a terrorist group, conspiracy to kill American citizens, conspiracy to kill U.S. officials and employees, conspiracy to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles, and money laundering.

Some of the charges carry a sentence of life in prison.

The alleged plot was discovered through an undercover operation in which two people working for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration posed as FARC representatives, U.S. officials said.

The men were arrested as they tried to finalize payment for the weapons, District Attorney Michael Garcia said.

Kassar has Spanish residency status and was living in the upscale town of Marbella, on Spain's southern Mediterranean coast, when he was arrested.

Kassar had recently told journalists he retired from arms dealing, but the embassy said he had been involved since the 1970s, providing weapons and military equipment to armed factions in Nicaragua, Cyprus, Bosnia, Croatia, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, and elsewhere.

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