Jury selection began on Monday for a suspected Syrian arms dealer
extradited from Spain on charges of planning to supply arms including
surface-to-air missile systems to the FARC.
Monzer al-Kassar, 62, a longtime Spanish resident known as the
“prince of Marbella” for his rich lifestyle in the glitzy seaside town,
is accused of planning to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to
the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to protect a
cocaine-trafficking business and attack U.S. interests.
Kassar, whom U.S. prosecutors call one of the most prolific arms
dealers in the world, sat in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Monday
as his lawyers and prosecutors began picking from more than 100
He has 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.
Kassar was extradited from Spain in June after Spain received
assurances from U.S. authorities he would face neither the death
penalty nor a life sentence without chance of parole.
He was arrested at Madrid airport in June 2007 after his U.S.
indictment said he knew the FARC kidnapped U.S. citizens to dissuade
American efforts to disrupt the cocaine trade.
The U.S. 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 U.S. 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.
Kassar also offered to send 1,000 men to fight with the FARC against U.S. military officers, prosecutors allege.
The U.S. 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.
Two other men charged in the same case, Tareq Mousa al Ghazi, 61, of
Lebanon and Luis Felipe Moreno Godoy, 59, of Marbella, pleaded innocent
in October 2007 to terrorism charges in the same case. They were
arrested in Bucharest, Romania. (Reuters)