Saturday, 5 November 2011

Russia denounces Bout’s conviction

Russia is outraged by Viktor Bout’s guilty verdict for attempting to sell heavy weaponry to an armed Colombian group, which the US and EU consider to be a terrorist organization.

The Foreign Ministry questioned the fairness of the jury’s decision announced in a New York court yesterday, due to the “intentionally created negative atmosphere” surrounding the case and criticized the “unjustified harsh detention conditions of a Russian citizen.”

“This casts doubt on the grounds that the accusations were based on, as well as the fairness of the court decision,” Alexender Lukashevich, a Foreign Ministry official representative, wrote in a note on the ministry’s website.

Convicted arms dealer Bout was found guilty of all four counts - conspiracy to kill US citizens, kill military and employees in Colombia, as well as conspiracy to provide anti-aircraft missiles and financial aid to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, Kommersant reported from the court room. The minimal term for each of these counts is 25 years in prison, since he declined a plea bargain. Bout’s defense claimed he was going to sell two used aircraft, and not weapons.

The Russian Foreign Ministry claimed it was going to “take all measures to ensure Bout’s legal rights and interests as a Russian citizen.”

“Our goal is to seek his return to the motherland,” Lukashevich wrote.

Although Russia has been protesting Bout’s arrest in Thailand, which it believed to be a judicial overreach by the US authorities, since 2008, the vice-consul of the Russian Consulate in New York, Alexander Otchaynov declined to comment on the verdict.

“There is no official position as to whether it was fair or not,” The Washington Post quoted him as saying.

Russia has been insisting that Bout’s extradition to New York in 2010 was unlawful, also claiming that torture and psychological pressure were used against him by investigators.

Earlier Russian State Duma deputies filed papers to the court of the Southern District of New York, expressing concern over Bout’s fate claiming international regulations were breached in his extradition. They pointed out that the arms dealer helped rescue Russian pilots from Taliban captivity back in 1996.

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