Russia blames US for 'illegal' Bout extradition: official

16th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Russia said Tuesday Thailand's extradition of suspected Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout to the United States was an illegal act which has no justification and was prompted by unprecedented US pressure.

"From the legal standpoint, what happened cannot have a rational explanation or justification," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

"There is no doubt that illegal extradition of V. A. Bout came as a consequence of unprecedented political pressure that the United States put on the government and the judicial authorities of Thailand."

Bout was flown out of Bangkok Tuesday on a US special jet after Thailand approved his extradition on terrorism charges.

The 43-year-old former Soviet air force pilot had been fighting extradition since his March 2008 arrest after a sting operation in Bangkok involving undercover US agents posing as Colombian FARC rebels.

The Russian statement accused the United States of intervening in the Thai judicial process and vowed to give Bout all the legal support that it could.

"This cannot have any other name but intervention in the pursuit of justice, and puts under question the independence of the Thai justice system and the decisions taken by Thailand," the Russian statement said.

The foreign ministry expressed "deep disappointment" with the decision and promised to defend Bout's rights "in accordance with the constitution of the Russian Federation and the norms of international humanitarian law."

The decision appeared to take Russia by surprise, with the Moscow embassy in Bangkok saying that it had not been informed in advance about the impending move.

© 2010 AFP

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