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Moscow hopes Viktor Bout case to be discussed at a higher level

November 10, 2011, 19:03 UTC+3

Moscow hopes that the case of the Russian citizen Viktor Bout, whom a jury panel in the U.S. has found guilty of four major criminal offenses

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MOSCOW, November 10 (Itar-Tass) — Moscow hopes that the case of the Russian citizen Viktor Bout, whom a jury panel in the U.S. has found guilty of four major criminal offenses, will be taken up at a higher level, Alexander Lukashevich, an official spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

“We continue contacting Viktor Bout’s relatives along all the channels and we also maintain contacts with U.S. officials and law enforcers,” he said.

Lukashevich reiterated that Russia is considering Viktor Bout’s trial in the U.S. as an overly politicized one.

“The charges issued to the man are groundless and devoid of any meaningful legal content,” he said. “The conditions, in which this Russian citizen is kept are getting harsher and harsher.”

“In essence, charges have been brought on against a person, whom the security services snatched from another country,” Lukashevich said.

“Russian officials are watching closely the further course of events and they will continue giving assistance to Bout, his family members and lawyers,” he said. “We hope that the issue will be taken up at higher levels, too.”

Viktor Bout, a former officer of the Soviet Army and a businessman who has specialized in the past fifteen or so years in the air haulage of cargoes in Africa, has been found guilty of a conspiracy for the purpose of killing U.S. citizens, a conspiracy for the purpose of killing a U.S. government employee, a conspiracy for purchasing and selling air defense missiles, and a conspiracy for supplying weaponry to international terrorist groupings.

He was arrested in Thailand in 2008 after an alleged attempt to sell a consignment of weaponry to undercover agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration who passed themselves off as representatives of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which the U.S. lists among terrorist organizations.

Moscow has always questioned the legality of Bout’s extradition to the U.S.

The judge is expected to read out a sentence, which may maroon Bout in jail for life, February 8, 2012.

According to international media reports, Bout’s attorney Albert Dayan said in connection with the trial that the U.S. authorities “framed a legitimate businessman by building their case on recorded conversations that were open to interpretation and never resulted in the exchange of any arms or money.”

He was also quoted as saying that the US justice officials "don't have anything /to prove Bout’s guilt/." "All they have is speculation, innuendo and conjecture."

"We have a number of questions, really serious questions and we can't agree with the assertions that mere knowledge of a possible use of weaponry under supply against U.S. citizens constitutes a criminal offense," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said earlier in connection with the jurors’ verdict on Bout.

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