Bout’s case – America’s hidden skeletons
The US spent years and reported tens of millions of taxpayer dollars trying to hunt down one Russian man in a sting operation. Alleged arms dealer Viktor Bout has been found guilty on all four charges brought against him by a federal court in Manhattan, after being snatched up from a third country for months of solitary confinement before a three-week trial.
“One – conspiring to kill US nationals, two – conspiring to kill US officers and employees, three – conspiring to use and acquire anti-air craft missiles, four – conspiring to provide material support to the FARC” – these were the charges listed by the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, in November 2010.
The 44-year-old Russian air cargo businessman fascinated Hollywood. Bout seems to have lost his case in the court of US public opinion long before his trial kicked off, with a movie made off of his alleged arms dealing and with the mainstream media having dubbed him “the Merchant of Death.” This has raised concerns of the fairness of his trial.
American agents posing as FARC members – a Columbian group deemed terrorist in the US but not by many other countries and the United Nations – met with and then arrested Bout in Thailand in 2008. After twice being found not guilty by Thai courts, the US reportedly played dirty by arm-twisting Thailand into extraditing Bout to America.
“They are willing to flaunt every international law to get what they want. And that means doing all these illegal things in the case of Viktor Bout – to extradite, or I should say, kidnap him,” said author and investigative journalist Daniel Estulin.
Bout’s family also called US actions entrapment and kidnapping.
“I can accept the possibility that Viktor Bout might have some information that might be of interest to someone. But why is it that other countries don’t just think to themselves – that there is someone who has some interesting information, and why don’t those government just drag those people onto their territory?” – said Viktor Bout’s wife Alla to RT.
Moscow’s requests to send him to Russia were brushed aside. They called Bout’s extradition illegal and questioned the validity of his conviction. One of the main arguments of the defense – that the United States lacked jurisdiction – was ignored by the court. Bout’s defense says the Russian was aware that he was not in touch with real FARC members, and all he was trying to do was sell two old cargo planes.
“We can appeal to this judge that the verdict was rendered against the weight of the evidence, and then we can also proceed to the United States Court of Appeals,” said Bout’s lawyer Albert Dayan after the verdict was announced.
But with the vigor with which Bout was brought to the US, experts – like investigative journalist George Mapp, who has attended every hearing – say a successful appeal is unlikely.
“These are imaginary crimes, manufactured jurisdiction, and manufactured evidence. DEA Operation Relentless was catch Viktor Bout, bring him to America, by any means necessary,” said Mapp.
The journalist says Bout is one of many victims of US judicial power play.
“I feel that Viktor, the particular charges that were brought against him, that he is innocent. I don’t want any innocent man whether it be Russian citizen Viktor Bout, or Troy Davis, sentenced to life or convicted of a crime that they didn’t commit,” said the journalist.
Viktor Bout’s wife Alla said the US is the criminal in this case.
“The actions currently carried out by U.S. special services are an organized provocation, organized crime – towards a Russian citizen – or any other citizen of the world – when they just deem them allegedly dangerous, it doesn’t even have to be a specific action,” said Alla.
Moscow has vowed to continue to push for Bout’s return to Russia. Viktor Bout has always maintained his innocence and will keep fighting for justice. But with US muscles flexed tight to keep him in an American prison, Bout is facing 25 years to life behind bars. The sentencing will come in February.