The Bangkok Criminal Court decided Monday not to drop additional charges against Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], further delaying his extradition to the US. The court denied US and Thai requests to drop the charges of money laundering and fraud against Bout and will launch new legal proceedings [BBC report], which will delay his extradition indefinitely. The additional charges [indictment, PDF] were filed by US prosecutors in February, before a Thai appeals court ruled [JURIST report] in August that Bout could be extradited to the US to face charges including conspiracy to kill US nationals and conspiracy to provide material support to a proscribed terrorist group. According to the appeals court ruling, Bout must be extradited to the US within three months or be released from Thai custody. If the new legal proceedings continue, the court order may expire and the extradition process will have to start all over again. The criminal court will make a decision on Tuesday as to whether Bout can be extradited on these additional charges.
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 [AFP report] as to whether Bout will be extradited to the US. The August appeals court decision overturned a 2009 decision by the Bangkok Criminal Court, refusing to extradite [JURIST report] Bout on the basis that the accusations made by the US were not cognizable under Thai law. The appeals court ruled that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], the group Bout is accused of supporting, is a cognizable terrorist group [Guardian report] under Thai law and that Thailand is obligated to honor its extradition treaties with the US. Lawyers for Bout argued that his safety would be in jeopardy in the US and that he would be unable to receive a fair trial. They have also indicated that they will continue fighting Bout's extradition by filing an appeal with the Thai government.