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Russia to seek extradition of Viktor Bout under prisoner transfer convention

Russia to seek extradition of Viktor Bout under prisoner transfer convention
Lawyers representing Russian citizen Viktor Bout, currently serving a 25-year sentence in the US, said that they hoped the new White House administration would satisfy a plea to extradite their client to Russia under an international convention.

Attorney Aleksey Tarasov, who represents Bout, said in an interview with Russia’s Izvestia daily that he and his colleagues planned to simultaneously start two legal procedures. One is a request to extradite their client to Russia so that he can serve the rest of his term under the 1983 Strasbourg Convention on Prisoner Transfer, while the other is a further attempt to prove Bout’s innocence in the US Supreme Court.

“These two processes do not contradict each other and can be launched simultaneously. Viktor has decided to appeal the decision of the second US circuit court in the Supreme Court of the United States. The request concerning the convention will also be initiated in early 2017,” the lawyer told reporters.

He added that the start of the legal procedure will take place under the new US administration as this gave it more chances of success.

“We saw the list of convicts pardoned by President Obama this week. Unfortunately, it contained neither Viktor Bout, nor Konstantin Yaroshenko,” Tarasov noted.

Konstantin Yaroshenko is a Russian citizen sentenced to 20 years in jail in the US in 2011 for allegedly participating in a conspiracy to smuggle drugs into the country.

The extradition request for Bout will be sent on behalf of the Russian nation, and the papers for it are being prepared, the lawyer said. However, the Russian Justice Ministry, which usually deals with such issues, did not immediately confirm this.
Bout’s spouse, Alla Bout, said that she believed that the chances of settling the extradition issue were higher under the incoming US administration of Donald Trump.

“If Mr. Trump’s election campaign statements about his intention to normalize the relations with Russia are truthful, we would prefer to deal with the new administration,” she said.

Viktor Bout is now serving a 25-year sentence in a top security US prison. He was sentenced in 2012 following a lengthy and controversial process. Bout, a businessman specializing in air cargo traffic, was arrested in Thailand in 2008 after a sting operation by US agents. He had allegedly admitted it was theoretically possible for a foreign terrorist group to purchase anti-aircraft weapons.

In 2010, Bout was extradited to the United States, and a year later he was convicted of conspiracy to kill US citizens. The alleged buyers of the weapons that he could in theory have provided may have been guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) – a group the United States ranks as a terrorist organization. Bout pleaded not guilty in court and continues to maintain his innocence.

Russia has repeatedly blasted Bout’s extradition and sentence as a violation of international law, a political move, and an example of the biased nature of the US justice system.

In spring 2016, the UN Security Council decided to exclude 21 individuals, including Viktor Bout, from the Liberia sanctions list, which was originally used by the US prosecution to convince the court that Bout was a dangerous criminal. Following this, Bout’s lawyers asked the US District Court for the Southern District of New York to review their client’s case, but this plea was rejected.

The Russian Foreign Ministry’s human rights envoy has commented on these latest developments, saying that this was yet more proof that the probe and trial were politicized from the outset, and that the US justice is extremely selective when it concerns Russian citizens.