Accused Russia arms dealer pleads not guilty in US court

Accused Russia arms dealer pleads not guilty in US court

Photo source or description

[JURIST] Accused Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] pleaded not guilty in a US court on Wednesday and is currently being held without bail. Bout faces charges [AFP report] stemming from a 2008 indictment [text, PDF] for selling weapons to a terrorist group and conspiring to kill US nationals. Bout was arrested [Interpol press release] in 2008 in a joint operation carried out by US and Thai authorities in which he allegedly sought to sell arms to Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) [CFR backgrounder]. Russia has continued to show strong support for Bout, claiming that he is an innocent businessman. If convicted, Bout could receive a maximum of a life sentence and a minimum of 25 years. Bout’s next court date is scheduled for January 10.

Earlier this week, the Thai government extradited [JURIST report] Bout to the US to stand trail. In October, Bout filed an appeal [JURIST report] 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 was 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 could be extradited [JURIST report] to the US. 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.