Russia 'doubts fairness' of Bout trial verdict: ministry

3rd November 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia on Thursday said it doubted the fairness of Viktor Bout's conviction in the United States on arms trafficking charges and would work to ensure his return home.

The foreign ministry said alleged pressure from US authorities and poor prison conditions "put in doubt the very basis on which the charge was made and, accordingly, the fairness of the verdict itself."

"Our goal is to ensure his return home," the ministry added in a tersely-worded statement.

Bout -- dubbed the "merchant of death" for his alleged involvement in arms trafficking in some of the world's worst hot spots -- was found guilty on four counts by a New York jury on Wednesday and faces sentencing on February 8.

The 44-year could spend between 25 years and life in prison after being found guilty on charges that include conspiring to kill US service personnel and to sell anti-aircraft weapons.

Bout was arrested in Thailand after being caught in a US sting operation and extradited for trial in 2010. But Russia has refused to accept his arrest as legitimate and he is not targeted by any legal proceedings at home.

The foreign ministry on Thursday reaffirmed its previous stance that Bout was "illegally extradited from Thailand under unprecedented political pressure from the United States."

It also accused US interrogators of putting "physical and psychological pressure (on Bout to testify) in contravention with international legal law."

© 2011 AFP

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