US hearing for 'Merchant of Death' Bout postponed

8th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Alleged "Merchant of Death" arms dealer Viktor Bout will appear in court on January 21 and not this week as planned after his lawyer obtained a postponement, a US court said Friday.

Bout, who turns 44 on January 13, was captured in a US sting in March 2008 and extradited from Thailand in November after a long legal battle. He is currently being held in a high-security prison in New York.

His lawyer had demanded a delay of 30 days but the judge only granted him until January 21, according to a court clerk.

Bout -- whose story inspired the 2005 Nicolas Cage film "Lord of War" -- has been charged with arms trafficking and terrorism and is accused of flying weapons to insurgents in Africa, South America and the Middle East.

If convicted, he faces between 25 years and life in prison.

The former Soviet military translator has insisted he is innocent and accused the United States of trying to make him a scapegoat for various international problems.

On Sunday Bout said in a rare interview with RIA Novosti that he had rejected a US plea bargain offer that would have exposed his alleged contact list.

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

Russia initially fought the 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."

© 2011 AFP

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