NEW YORK, October 11 (Itar-Tass) – Trial of Russian businessman Viktor Bout, whom the U.S. authorities accuse of arms contraband, begins at 10:00 hours EDST /14:00 hours GMT/ Tuesday at the New York federal court.
The reason, for which Bout, a former Soviet military interpreter, is standing trial in New York, is that the charges against him include a conspiracy for the purpose of killing U.S. citizens.
U.S. attorneys claim Bout agreed to supply weaponry to an international terrorist organization in spite of being aware of its purposes, which included the killing of U.S. citizens and official representatives in Colombia.
The trial will open with the procedure of selecting the jurymen. Of the eighty candidates, a total of twelve main and six standby jurymen will be selected.
The jury will be expected to decide on the former Russian officer’s plight. The questions the candidates will be asked in the process of selection are supposed to clear out, among other things, whether or not the potential jurymen have any prejudices against Russia or its citizens.
Defending Viktor Bout in the courtroom are lawyers Albert Dayan and Kenneth Kaplan. U.S. media quoted Dayan as saying Monday Bout "never had any intention of transferring arms to anyone”.
"We believe that most of the reputation he has developed is imposed rather than actual," he said in an interview last week.
Virtually on the eve of the trial, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin took a decision “to require jurors to sign a pledge not to research Bout on the Internet or other media.”
This is what lawyers have been pressing for. They called the judge’s attention more than once to the fact that intense public attention to the Bout case will make it extremely difficult, if at all possible, to ensure the fairness of trial
The problem is that Western mass media and the pop culture have spared no effort to portrait Bout as a pariah of the international community and an arms peddlar who makes his fortunes on shedding people’s blood. The Lord of War movie starring Nicholas Cage was released in 2005. Viktor Bout was taken as the prototype of Cage’s hero – “an arms dealer /who/ confronts the morality of his work as he is being chased by an Interpol agent.”
In 2007, U.S. authors Stephen Braun and Douglas Farah published a book about Bout entitled ‘Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible’.
Bout was arrested March 6, 2008, in Bangkok at a U.S. warrant as a result of a ‘sting operation’, in which he allegedly agreed to sell the weapons worth millions of U.S. dollars to agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency acting as envoys of the Colombian extremist grouping FARC.
A Thai court exonerated him of guilt in 2009 but the Appeals Court in Bangkok overruled the case in August 2010 and sanctioned Bout’s extradition to the U.S.
Russian officials have said on a number of occasions that the extradition was effectuated with encroachments on the law, as there were no appropriate court sanctions for this.
If the jurors pass a guilty verdict, Bout may face a life sentence. He does not recognize his guilt on any charges.
His lawyers insist that he never sold arms and his entire business focused on air transportation of cargos.
Viktor’s wife Alla said earlier the U.S. pressed for her husband’s extradition to create a myth about an important victory against terrorism before the eyes of the American people and the world community.
She believes that Viktor has become a victim of unscrupulous activity of a number of UN experts, as well as U.S. and British politicians and media people, who fanned the suspicions of UN officials to the extent of demonizing her husband.
The trial is expected to last about three weeks.