Russia's 'Merchant of Death' lashes US courts

2nd January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia's suspected arms dealer Viktor Bout, dubbed the "Merchant of Death," said he did not expect justice in the United States, in a rare interview from his New York prison published on Sunday.

"I think that the court will definitely be biased and not objective," he told RIA Novosti in comments relayed to the state news agency by Russia's deputy consul in New York.

"I say this based on the fact that the US government intentionally distorted facts about my life and work in its charge sheet," he said.

Bout -- whose story inspired the 2005 Nicolas Cage film "Lord of War" -- was arrested in a sting operation in Bangkok by Thai and US forces in March 2008 and extradited to New York in November following a long legal battle.

Military analysts in Moscow said the arrest was a particularly sensitive blow for Russia because it threatened to expose potential links between government officials and the illicit arms trade.

The 43-year-old former Soviet military translator has been charged with arms trafficking and terrorism in a case that will be heard in a Manhattan federal court.

The indictment accuses Bout of assembling a fleet of cargo planes in the 1990s and transporting weapons to insurgents in violence-wrecked countries in Africa as well as South America and the Middle East.

US Attorney General Eric Holder recently called Bout "one of the world's most prolific arms traffickers".

Russia initially fought Bout's extradition to the United States. But the Kremlin's top foreign policy adviser said in November that Bout "should answer the questions that US justice has for him."

Bout has insisted on his innocence and again accused the United States of waging a well-orchestrated smear campaign.

"For the past 10 years, the US authorities have been directly and through the media waging war against me and my family. We have been buried by a torrent of lies," Bout said.

"In such conditions, no one here -- including the judge -- can be impartial."

© 2011 AFP

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