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Russian citizen serving time in US surprised by transfer to general ward

Viktor Bout is serving a 25-year jail term at the Marion jail in Illinois for illegal arms trading

MOSCOW, October 27. /TASS/. Transfer of Russian businessman Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25-year jail term at the Marion jail in Illinois, from a specialized unit for particularly dangerous criminals to a general ward in the same penitentiary caught him by surprise.

On Wednesday, Viktor shared his feeling with his wife Alla in a telephone call, A TASS reporter had an opportunity to write down his comments in the loudspeaker mode.

"It was a totally unexpected thing for me," said Bout, who was put into jail for illegal arms trading. "I’m still in a state of shock."

"I went out into the open air and couldn’t stop enjoying the touches of grass, the trees, and expanses that opened in front of my eyes," he said.

"When they told me about my transfer I was doing my daily chores and reading," Bout went on. "I couldn’t believe it. They helped me to pack my boxes. It was all in a rush. Then they took me to the general unit. Here I’m also kept in a cell."

He said he had an opportunity to speak over the phone for 300 minutes each month now and more TV channels were available to him. Also, he could take walks in the huge courtyard of the jail, go to the gym and visit a small library.

"I can’t describe it because it’s only 24 hours that I’m here," Viktor said in a crisp enough voice. He made jokes from time to time in the course of the conversation.

"The Americans staying here tell me it looks very much like a school, a camp or army barracks," he said. "Like in an army canteen they get hamburgers here on Wednesdays."

Thai authorities detained Bout in Bangkok in 2008 on the grounds of a warrant a local court had issued pending a US query. Charges with illegal supplies of weaponry to the Farc rebel grouping in Colombia, which the US lists among terrorist organizations, were brought on against him.

The Thais extradited Bout to the US in 2010 and a court in New York City sentenced him to 25 years in jail and a monetary fine in the amount of $15 million in April 2012.

When brought to the Marion jail, Bout was placed to the ‘communications management unit’. The latter have been set up in a number of US jails as part of struggle with international terrorism.

Human rights groups question the legality of these units and file lawsuits with American courts. They say Moslems make up about 70% of the inmates kept there.

Compared with other inmates, those confined to the ‘communication management units’ face harsh restrictions in the form of heavily slashed opportunities for communicating with others. They can make telephone calls only once in a while and only in English and are denied walks in the open air or physical activities.

Viktor Bout has been doing his term so far in a cell 2.5 meters by 3.0 meters, with a concrete sleeping platform and a close-stool.