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Trial Begins for Peru's Ex-Spy Chief Accused in Rebel Arms Deal - 2004-01-20

Peru's former intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos goes on trial in Lima Tuesday, accused of masterminding a deal that put thousands of assault rifles into the hands of leftist Colombian guerillas in 1999.

Prosecutors accuse Montesinos of organizing a complex plot to acquire 10,000 weapons from Jordan and drop them by parachute to rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

Officials are seeking a 20 year sentence for Montesinos, who says he is innocent.

He is already in prison after being convicted on corruption and other charges.

Montesinos was a top official in the government led by Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori until it collapsed amid corruption allegations in 2000. Both Montesinos and former President Fujimori fled the country, but Montesinos was captured and returned to face trial.

Prosecutors say he could eventually face scores of other charges including drug trafficking and authorizing murder.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.