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Bout's lawyer says alleged Russian arms dealer can win in U.S. court

RIA Novosti

18:50 20/08/2010

BANGKOK, August 20 (RIA Novosti) - Russian businessman Viktor Bout, due to be extradited from Thailand to the United States, may win the U.S. trial, one of his Thai lawyers said on Friday.

Earlier on Friday the Thai appeals court ruled to extradite the alleged arms trafficker to the United States on weapons smuggling and other charges.

"With great regret I must state that we have irrevocably lost the case of my client in Thailand. Now Viktor must first of all think about how to find a good lawyer in the United States," Chamroen Panompakakom said.

"Much will depend on the evidence that the U.S. prosecution has. Judging by the facts that were presented during the trial in Thailand, they will have a chance to win the case in America," he added.

Former Russian army officer Viktor Bout, 44, was arrested in March 2008 under a request from the United States, which accuses him of illegally trading arms. He has repeatedly denied the accusations.

In August 2009, the Bangkok Criminal Court ruled in Bout's favor, denying the U.S. extradition request due to a lack of evidence and because it believed the case to be politically motivated. However, the United States appealed the ruling and filed new charges against him.

The lawyer said Friday's ruling was solely on the merits of the extradition case and did not consider whether Bout was innocent or guilty of the charges filed in the United States.

The Court of Appeal has the final say on extradition cases in Thailand so there is no avenue to appeal the ruling.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that Russia will seek the repatriation of Bout.

The minister called Thai court's verdict unlawful and politically motivated.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department's acting Deputy Attorney General Gary G. Grindler said the United States was pleased with the verdict.

"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 said in a statement on the department's website.

Grindler said the prosecution of Viktor Bout was of "utmost priority to the United States."

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