Saturday, December 22, 2007

Al Kassar Appeal Rejected.

Spain's National Court rejects appeal by Syrian accused in U.S. of illegal arms deals.

MADRID, Spain (AP) - Spain's National Court on Thursday rejected a Syrian businessman's appeal against extradition to the United States where he is wanted on charges of plotting to supply weapons to Colombian rebels.

The court approved the extradition of Monzer al-Kassar in October but he appealed claiming the charges were of dubious legality, and the United States had racist and political motives in pursuing him.

Rejecting Al-Kassar's appeal, a panel of National Court judges said that he had been a known arms trafficker since the 1970s and had provided weapons to armed groups including Nicaragua, Brazil, Bosnia, Iran and Iraq.

"Some of these groups have been terrorist organizations ... whose aims have been to attack U.S properties and citizens," the panel ruled.

The final decision now lies with the Spanish governmentAccording to U.S. officials, undercover officers of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency arranged a fictitious deal with al-Kassar, convincing him they represented rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

They said they wanted to buy surface-to-air missile systems, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, thousands of machine guns and millions of rounds of ammunition for the group to take down U.S. helicopters aiding Colombia's battle against drug traffickers.

The U.S. indictment charges al-Kassar with conspiring to support terrorists, conspiring to kill U.S. soldiers, conspiring to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles and money laundering.Al-Kassar, a longtime resident of Spain, stood trial in Spain in 1995 on charges of supplying assault rifles used by Palestinian militants in the hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro in 1985, in which one American was killed. He was acquitted for lack of evidence.

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