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U.S. court starts interviewing witnesses in Bout case

RIA Novosti

05:40 13/10/2011

NEW YORK, October 13 (RIA Novosti) - Witnesses began to testify during the second day of suspected Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout's trial.

The trial against Bout started on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. It is expected to continue for three or four weeks.

The first government witness to testify was William Brown, an agent of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) who headed the sting operation that ultimately led to Bout's arrest in Thailand on weapons trafficking charges.

His questioning lasted throughout the day and will continue next Monday, when the hearings resume after a four-day break.

Prosecutors requested ten days to interview its witnesses and present evidence to the jury.

The key prosecution witness is Bout's suspected associate Andrew Smulian, who pleaded guilty shortly after his arrest.

Bout is charged with conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, conspiracy to kill U.S. officials, conspiracy to sell missiles and conspiracy to support terrorism by cooperating with a designated terrorist group. The Russian national denies all charges against him.

Bout's lawyer, Albert Dayan, told the 12-member jury that Bout, who used to be in the air cargo business, was trying to sell two planes, not weapons, when he discussed an arms deal in Thailand with two undercover U.S. agents posing as representatives of the FARC guerilla movement.

Bout, 44, allegedly agreed to sell them at least 100 surface-to-air missiles, 20,000 AK-47s, and 10 million rounds of ammunition, prosecutors say.

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