Lawyers challenge 'Merchant of Death' trial

22nd January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Defense lawyers for the world's most notorious alleged arms trafficker, so-called "Merchant of Death" Viktor Bout, said Friday that his trial scheduled to start in September should be scrapped.

Bout, a Russian citizen extradited from Thailand last November, will go to trial starting September 12, Judge Shira Scheindlin announced at a hearing in New York.

However, the court will first hear several defense arguments that Bout's trial should be scrapped.

One of Bout's defense lawyers told the hearing she would be filing a motion "to dismiss (the trial) for unlawful extradition."

Attorneys were also planning to challenge on grounds that Bout's alleged crimes did not take place on US soil.

This sets the stage for months of legal wrangling before a jury can be selected.

Meanwhile, Bout is being held in a high security section of the New York detention center. His lawyer complained of restricted access, saying "counsel has difficulty working with a client through a mesh cage."

The accused man, sporting his trademark mustache and wearing a dark blue prison smock, spoke briefly to his wife Alla Bout, who was sitting in the courtroom.

She later told AFP her husband looked "terrible."

"Compared to two months ago, he looks like a different person," she said, before being pursued by a crowd of Russian journalists into the icy streets outside the courthouse.

Bout -- whose story inspired the 2005 Nicolas Cage film "Lord of War" -- has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to kill US nationals, acquire an anti-aircraft missile and support a terrorist group. If convicted, he faces between 25 years and life in prison.

© 2011 AFP

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