By Ria Novosti
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday it will take all efforts necessary to repatriate convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout after a U.S. court sentenced him to 25 years in prison.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he would discuss Bout’s sentence at a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“The Russian Foreign Ministry will take whatever action necessary to repatriate Viktor Bout back to his Motherland by any means within international law. This issue will, without doubt, be one of our top priorities in Russian-American relations,” the Foreign Ministry said.
“In spite of the unreliability of the evidence, the illegal character of his arrest involving the participation of US special service agents in Thailand and the subsequent extradition, American legal officials, having carried out a political order, ignored the arguments of lawyers and numerous appeals from all levels in defense of this Russian citizen,” the Russian ministry said.
“Long before the sentence was given to Bout, the authorities declared him the ‘Merchant of Death’ and almost an international terrorist, but this accusation was based exclusively on his imputed ‘criminal intent,’ the Ministry added.
“From there, an attempt was made to force him to admit his guilt by creating unbearable conditions for detention, by both physical and psychological means. The absolutely unacceptable campaign by the American media was aimed at influencing the jury and the judicial process in the ‘right direction.’ ”
Russia is not seeking revenge over the Bout verdict, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said later on Friday. “In this situation we are not seeking revenge, but want to help Viktor Bout. We are not proceeding by a desire to take revenge at any price, but by the desire to enforce the rights of our compatriot. We will actively support the appeal that Bout’s lawyers are going to file and will strive for his repatriation,” Lavrov added.
Russia’s Federation council said that country should do a swap deal with the United States to repatriate Bout.
“All possibilities of returning Bout back home should be studied…but it seems that a swap deal would be the most rapid resolution of this conflict,” Valery Shnyakin, the chair of the council’s Foreign Committee said.
Russia and the United States have both signed the European Convention on Transfer of Sentenced Persons, which allows a person sentenced for crime in a foreign country to be transferred to serve his sentence back in his homeland. “So Bout’s repatriation is possible,” Russia’s Justice Ministry said on Friday.
The 25-year prison sentence for Bout is absolutely inadmissible and biased, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Human Rights Spokesman, Konstantin Dolgov said on Friday.
“We consider the U.S. Court’s 25-year prison sentence given to Viktor Bout absolutely inadmissible, unbiased and non-objective,” Dolgov said in a statement.
“We have closely monitored the investigative process and can say for sure that physical and psychological pressure was used against Bout,” he said, adding Bout “was actually kidnapped…and extradited to the United States.”
“It definitely raises doubts about the grounds that the prosecution is build on and the verdict’s justice.”
Douglas McNabb, a Transnational criminal defense lawyer told RIA Novosti Russia may push for the annulment of Bout’s extradition from Thailand to the United States.
“If the trial continues, and if the court holds that the extradition was illegal, the Thai government will be entitled in accordance with the U.S.-Thai extradition treaty to legitimately demand Bout’s return,” McNabb said.
Other lawyers also criticized Bout’s trial.
“I think he (Bout) was railroaded all the way”, said Russell Mace, a criminal defense lawyer who has been defending individuals and companies in federal court throughout the United States for many years.
He also pointed out some drawbacks in the Bout’s defense. “I cannot believe no defense witnesses were called and in my opinion there should have been a rather extensive defense”, he said.
However, witnesses for the prosecution, such as the Drugs Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent and the informers, did testify at the trial. The court received tapped telephone calls records.
“Bout’s appeal is his last hope”, Mace concluded.
A the Federal District Court of New York jury ound Bout guilty in November last year of conspiring to kill U.S. officials and citizens, acquiring and intending to use Russian-made Igla anti-aircraft missiles and providing support to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), considered a terrorist group by the United States.
Bout has denied all the charges against him. In an interview with Voice of Russia Radio on Wednesday, he accused the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) of hypocrisy and double standards, saying that it was wrong to jail a person “just for what he has said, even if he has done no wrong” while many arms dealers in the United States go unpunished.