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Russia Denounces Bout Sentence

April 06, 2012

VOA News

Russia's foreign ministry is lashing out at the United States for ordering Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout to 25 years in prison.

A ministry statement Friday condemned the sentence, accusing the U.S. court of carrying out an obvious "political order."

A U.S. judge handed Bout the 25 year prison term for attempting to sell missiles to Colombian rebels. Prosecutors had charged Bout with terrorism, dubbing him the "Merchant of Death."

Bout shouted during the sentencing hearing, yelling that the charges against him were a lie and that he was a legitimate businessman. His lawyer says he will appeal the sentence all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary.

Federal prosecutors said Bout's weapons sales helped inflame wars in Africa. They say he was planning to sell surface-to-air missiles to Colombian rebels to shoot down U.S. helicopters.

U.S. agents posing as rebels arrested him in Thailand in 2008. He was extradited to the United States, tried, and convicted in November.

Bout insisted he was trying to sell cargo planes, not weapons, to the agents.

He could have been sentenced to life in prison, but Judge Shira Scheindlin said there was "no reason to believe" Bout would have committed the crimes had he not been lured by the undercover sting operation.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.



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