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U.S. media surprised by suspected Russian arms dealer's extradition ruling

RIA Novosti

05:52 21/08/2010

NEW YORK, August 21 (RIA Novosti) - A Thai court ruling to extradite suspected Russian arms dealer to the U.S., which perplexed and disappointed Russian officials, was also met with surprise in the U.S.

The 44-year-old former Russian army officer was arrested in Thailand in March 2008 under a request from the United States, which accuses him of illegally trading arms. He has repeatedly denied the accusations.

A day before the trial, Newsweek assured that U.S. intelligence officials were "increasingly nervous" that Bout may soon be released from jail amid "a pressure campaign by the Russian government aimed at blocking his extradition to the U.S."

Douglas Farah, a co-author of the "Merchant of Death" book about Bout, wrote in his blog that "It is a day I had long predicted would never occur, but I have never been happier to be wrong."

"Bout should be extradited in about a week, although the Russian government has already made clear it will do what it can to slow the process even further," the expert said.

"It was unclear just how the Thai court arrived at its decision, which came as a surprise to U.S. officials. A lower court's ruling in Thailand a year ago rejected the U.S. request that Bout be brought to America," Associated Press wrote.

U.S. media hints that the unexpected ruling may be due to U.S.'s decision to sell three Black Hawk helicopters and support equipment worth $150 million to Thailand, its "major non-NATO ally."

"Last-ditch appeals by Russia, coupled with extensive paperwork, could extend Bout's Bangkok prison stay as long as 90 days before he could be extradited. An appeal directly to the Thai royal family is expected," AP cited a former U.S. official familiar with the extradition process, as saying.

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