Thailand court approves US extradition of suspected Russia arms dealer
Thailand court approves US extradition of suspected Russia arms dealer
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[JURIST] An appeals court in Thailand ruled Friday that accused Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout [BBC profile] can be extradited to the US to face charges [indictment, PDF] including conspiracy to kill US nationals and conspiracy to provide material support to a proscribe terrorist group. The court’s decision overturned a decision issued by the Bangkok Criminal Court last August, refusing to extradite Bout [JURIST report] 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 their 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. A spokesperson for the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website], praised [statement] the court’s decision:

We are extremely pleased that the Appeals Court in Thailand has granted the extradition of Viktor Bout to the United States on charges of conspiring to sell weapons to a terrorist organization for use in killing Americans. We have always felt that the facts of the case, the relevant Thai law and the terms of our bilateral extradition treaty clearly supported the extradition of Mr. Bout on these charges.

He also indicated that Bout’s prosecution is a top priority for the DOJ. Russian officials have questioned the role of the US in lobbying [CNN report] for the court’s decision and indicated that Russia will continue working to obtain his release. Bout must be extradited to the US within three months or be released from Thai custody.

Last July, Russian organized crime leader and suspected weapons trafficker Semyon Mogilevich [FBI profile], who is wanted by the US, was released [JURIST report] by a Russian court. Mogilevich is unlikely to stand trial on US racketeering, securities fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering charges, as the US and Russia do not have an extradition treaty. In March 2009, Armenian international arms dealer Artur Solomonyan was sentenced to 22 years in prison [JURIST report] for arranging to sell shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, rocket-propelled grenades and other Russian-made weaponry to a confidential informant posing as an al Qaeda operative.