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PETROPAVLOVSK KAMCHATSKY, November 16, /ITAR-TASS/. Bout was arrested in Bangkok in March 2008 at a U.S. request and extradited to the U.S. in November 2010. He has been charged with masterminding the sale of a large shipment of arms.
Four charges were brought against him: criminal conspiracy to kill US nationals, conspiracy to kill officials in public service, criminal conspiracy to purchase and sell antiaircraft missiles and criminal conspiracy to supply weapons to terrorist groups. The Russian citizen pleaded not guilty on all the points.
Bout is convinced that his case “is anti-Russian”. “My case is purely political. Despite the American procedures the Russian public knows the truth. My case shows the real condition of the American justice system of a police state close to dictatorship,” Bout said.
Bout’s lawyers insist that their defendant had no plans to sell arms to terrorists, let alone kill Americans. The only purpose of his trip to Bangkok in March 2008, reputedly for a meeting with representatives of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (RAFC), whose role was played by undercover informants of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, was to make a deal to sell two transport planes which were in Bout’s possession at that time. He was arrested during the meeting.
Russia has repeatedly said that Bout’s transfer from Bangkok to the U.S. was unlawful and was carried out without court rulings. The Russian Foreign Ministry continues to insist on Bout’s extradition.
The Marion prison, where Bout is serving his term, is located in Illinois, 500 kilometres south of Chicago, and is designed to accommodate 1,000 inmates.
In September 2011, a U.S court sentenced Yaroshenko, 42, to 20 years in prison for having been involved in a criminal ring organised for smuggling a large shipment of cocaine. He was detained by the U.S. authorities in Liberia and then taken to the United States. Moscow believes that these charges are doubtful.
Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service (FSKN) chief Viktor Ivanov said that his Service had asked the U.S. to provide additional information on the case as only “a brief memo” was given to the Russian drug police, notifying them that Yaroshenko was suspected of drug trafficking in the U.S.
The Russian Foreign Ministry’s commissioner for human rights, democracy and the rule of law Konstantin Dolgov said the New York court of appeals’ refusal to review the guilty verdict to Yaroshenko, was “inhuman, illogical and unacceptable”.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has advised Russians who may have problems with the American law to refrain from travelling to countries that have extradition agreements with the United States.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia advises Russian citizens to refrain from foreign trips, especially to the countries that have signed extradition agreements with the United States and if there are suspicions that American law enforcement agencies may take legal action against them,” the ministry said.
“Russian citizens have been detained more and more often lately in different countries at the request of American law enforcement agencies for their further extradition and judicial prosecution in the United States. The latest such examples include the arrests of Dmitry Ustinov in Lithuania, Dmitry Belorossov in Spain, Maxim Chukharev in Costa Rica, and Alexander Panin in the Dominican Republic,” the ministry said.
“Experience shows that the trials of those who were basically abducted and taken to the U.S. are biased, based on shaky evidence and conspicuously accusatory. As a rule, they result in illegitimate verdicts with long prison terms as in the case of Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko, who were sentenced to 25 and 20 years in prison, respectively,” the ministry said.
“Russian consulate and consulates general provide consular and legal assistance to Russian citizens in difficult situations, but one cannot count on their successful resolution,” the ministry said.
More than 120 countries have extradition agreements with the United States, including all of the EU and Latin American countries, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.