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Russia blasts reported U.S. pressure for Thais to extradite Bout

RIA Novosti


MOSCOW, October 29 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that it was unacceptable for the United States to apply pressure to secure the extradition of alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout from Thailand.

Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said that some Thai and foreign media outlets recently published reports that the United States was pressuring the Thai executive and judicial bodies in an attempt to extradite Bout, currently in prison in Thailand.

"We [Russia] consider such acts, which are of an illegal nature, unacceptable and incompatible with a fair trial for Bout," Nesterenko said.

Former Russian army officer Bout, 42, was arrested in Thailand in March 2008 during a sting operation led by U.S. agents.

The Bangkok Criminal Court refused in August to extradite Bout to the United States, where he is accused of conspiring with others to sell millions of dollars' worth of weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), among other illegal arms deals, and "threatening the lives of U.S. citizens."

The United States accuses Bout of conspiring to sell FARC more than 700 surface-to-air missiles, thousands of guns, high-tech helicopters and airplanes outfitted with grenade launchers and missiles. He has been indicted on four terrorism-related charges in New York and could face life in jail.

FARC is considered a terrorist organization by Colombia, the United States and the European Union.

However, Thai courts established that FARC was not a terrorist organization but a political one, since it has a controlled territory and a population that lives in that territory.

Bout has been linked to some of the world's most notorious conflicts, allegedly supplying arms to former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor and Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi. He has repeatedly denied the accusations.

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