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Accused Russia arms dealer appeals US extradition in Thailand court

Accused Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] on Friday filed an appeal challenging the Bangkok Criminal Court's decision to dismiss [JURIST report] money laundering and fraud charges against him, which removed obstacles to his US extradition. According to Bout's lawyer Lak Nitiwatanavichan, the arms dealer is now seeking to have these charges reinstated [Bangkok Post report] to avoid extradition to the US. In August, an appeals court in Thailand ruled that Bout can be extradited [JURIST report] to the US to face charges [indictment, PDF] including conspiracy to kill US nationals and conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist group. The court's ruling overturned a decision it issued a year earlier, refusing to extradite Bout [JURIST report] on the basis that the accusations made by the US were not cognizable under Thai law. According to the August ruling, Bout must be extradited by November 20 [AP report] to the US or be released.

Bout's situation has created political tension for Thailand. Russia has shown strong support for Bout, claiming that he is an innocent businessman, while the US is seeking to prosecute him for supporting terrorism. Last week, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva [official website, in Thai; BBC profile] said that, although the case must work its way through the court system, he will make the final decision [AP report] as to whether Bout will be extradited to the US. Lawyers for Bout argue that his safety would be in jeopardy in the US and that he would be unable to receive a fair trial. If convicted in a US court, Bout could be sentenced to life in prison. Bout has been in Thai custody since he was arrested [Interpol press release] in a joint operation carried out by US and Thai authorities in which Bout allegedly sought to sell arms to Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) [CFR backgrounder].

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