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Syrian Arms Dealer Acquitted In Achille Lauro Case

March 22, 1995 GMT

MADRID, Spain (AP) _ A court Wednesday acquitted Syrian arms dealer Monzer Al Kassar of charges related to the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro.

Al Kassar was accused of supplying the assault rifles used by Palestine Liberation Front guerrillas to take over the ship during a Mediterranean cruise. American passenger Leon Klinghoffer was killed during the hijacking.

Al Kassar has repeatedly claimed he only deals in legal arms sales and that he was a victim of a conspiracy to link him to the hijacking.

The court did not specify the reason for the acquittal.

Al Kassar, who has lived on and off in Spain the past 15 years, was arrested in Madrid in June 1992. He is believed to have close ties with intelligence services in several countries, including Spain.

News reports last year said Al Kassar was a partner in arms dealing with Mohammed Abass, who headed the Iraq-backed Palestine Liberation Front. Al Kassar denied knowing Abass during his trial in January.