NEW YORK, August 23. /TASS/. Russian citizen Viktor Bout, who is serving a sentence in a US jail, was penalized for violating prison rules with a two-month ban on making phone calls and meeting relatives, his attorney Alexei Tarasov said on Tuesday.
The disciplinary procedure was initiated against Bout in June for his interview to a reporter from the RT TV channel. During the interview that took place on May 5, a reporter, who was authorized to speak with Bout, handed the phone over to a colleague. That person was not on the list of individuals to whom the jailed Russian was allowed to communicate.
"The hearing took place today, approximately an hour ago. He was found guilty of violations, however, his guilt was deemed partial, because he did not choose whom to speak to," Tarasov told TASS. "He was punished by a ban on talking by phone, using the prison shop and meeting with relatives for two months. His 15-day prison term cut for good behavior was also revoked."
According to earlier reports, Bout’s prison sentence could have been extended as punishment, or he could have been sent to solitary confinement.
"We managed to dodge what we feared the most, notably solitary confinement," the attorney said. "This is what matters most."
For two months, Bout will be allowed to communicate only with his attorney or Russian diplomats.
"This situation will have a serious effect on [Bout’s] freedom of speech," he added. "Next time, when he talks to the media or receives a request for an interview, he would think twice whether to agree to it. In this respect, we view the penalty as excessive, although it was milder than it could have been."
He noted that the phone interview in question was given to RT, "a news outlet which the US authorities clearly dislike."
"Of course, Viktor has to face closer attention than other inmates. There is great possibility that all this focus on attempts to find violations [of the prison regime] can be explained by the fact that he is being watched closely. He is a Russian, his case was a high-profile one, and the US side’s bias can be clearly seen, that’s why nothing can be ruled out," Tarasov said.
Bout was detained in the Thailand’s capital of Bangkok in 2008 on a warrant issued by a local court at Washington’s request. He was charged with conspiracy to deliver weapons to a group calling itself the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, deemed terrorist by the US. In 2010, Bout was extradited to the United States. In April 2012, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison and a fine of $15 million.