NEW YORK, August 4 (Itar-Tass) —— Russian citizen Viktor Bout being on trial in the United States for alleged arms trafficking and his lawyers are awaiting trial with optimism despite the rejection of his pleas for dropping the charges against him.
Nor the lawyer are worried by the U.S. prosecutors’ intention to bring in more evidence against Bout, using documents showing his illegal dealings in Africa. These include text messages retrieved from Bout’s computer and sent through Skype in 2008, which the prosecutors claim contain proof that the Russian businessman intended to supply a Kortent antitank system to Libya.
The prosecutors also submitted a petition last week, asking the court to include in the case testimonies regarding alleged arms supplies by Bout to areas of armed conflicts in Angola and Congo in 1997-1998.
However Bout’s lawyers say that all these pieces of evidence exist only in the imagination of U.S. prosecutors and have no doubt about their defendant’s innocence.
“It does not matter how the prosecution will build its tactics because what Viktor Bout says is true,” lawyer Albert Dayan said.
He said once again that his Russian defendant is waiting for the start of hearings with eagerness in order to dismiss of the charges brought against him.
“We are heading for the trial where it will become clear that Bout had no intention to supply arms to anyone,” Dayan said.
He believes that everyone will understand quite soon that Bout’s arrest was “a set-up well planned in advance”.
Dayan said earlier that he planned to present two new Russian witnesses in the case who could “punch a hole in the government’s evidence”.
He declined to name the witnesses until Judge Shira Scheindlin agrees to their participation in the hearings. According to Dayan, one of the witnesses knows Bout and Andrew Smulyan who is involved in the same case. Both have been charged by the U.S. authorities with an attempt to sell arms to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia knowing all the way that they would be used for killing American citizens.
On June 22, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara sent to the Southern District Court in Manhattan a conclusion on the appeals filed by the Russian businessman’s defence lawyers, stating that the appeals should be turned down for lack of grounds. The prosecution claims that Bout allegedly agreed to supply weapons to an international terrorist organisation, knowing that its purpose was to kill U.S. citizens and officials in Colombia.
“The witness participated in a meeting between Bout and Smulyan in Moscow in 2008,” Dayan said.
On August 2, Scheindlin killed Bout’s last hope for a quick case closure by rejecting his lawyers’ petitions in which they questioned the legality of Bout’s extradition to the U.S. in November 2010.
They also stated that the U.S. authorities had fabricated the charges against Bout for political reasons.
On the first matter, Scheindlin announced in a 20-page ruling that courts in the U.S. were not empowered to revisit decisions on extradition made in other countries.
When rejecting the second petition, she said there was not enough evidence that the charges were politically motivated.
Bout was arrested in Bangkok in March 2008 at a U.S. request and extradited to the U.S. in November 2010. He has been charged with masterminding the sale of a large shipment of arms.
Four charges have been brought against him: criminal conspiracy to kill US nationals, conspiracy to kill officials in public service, criminal conspiracy to purchase and sell antiaircraft missiles and criminal conspiracy to supply weapons to terrorist groups. The Russian citizen has pleaded not guilty on all the points. If convicted, 44-year-old Bout will face from 25 years in prison to life imprisonment.
The Russian Foreign Ministry took steps to prevent his extradition to the U.S.; Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov suggested that Bout was innocent. On November 18, 2010, shortly after Bout’s extradition to the U.S., Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s aide Sergei Prikhodko claimed that Russia had “nothing to hide” in Bout’s criminal case stating, “It is in our interests that the investigation… be brought to completion, and [Bout] answer all the questions the American justice system has.”
The trial may begin in October 2011. Bout’s wife, Alla, said she doubted that the trial of her would be impartial and correct.
“Viktor’s case has become a political one. I doubt that it will be a correct and impartial trial and won’t be lobbied by the U.S. government,” Alla Bout said at a roundtable hosted by the State Duma.
She noted how much money had been spent to hype the case.
“My husband continues to be demonised in the U.S.,” she said. “We also have questions about Viktor’s being held in prison, why it is a special unit and why maximum security.”
There has been no reply from the American side to any of the inquiries sent by the Russian Embassy in the U.S. and Bout’s lawyers, she said.
She recalled that psychological pressure had been exerted on Bout many times during his extradition from Thailand to the U.S. “These methods cannot be called appropriate,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said earlier.
Moscow believes that the evidence collected against Bout “is too thin to make far-reaching accusations”, he said.
The ministry thinks that a situation where Russian citizens fall victim to U.S. justice on the basis of broad interpretation of law is unacceptable.
“We keep on stressing the unacceptability of the situation where a number of Russian citizens fall victim to the application of American legislation and American legislative norms on an exterritorial basis, on the basis of broad interpretation of American laws and the possibility of its extrapolation, including outside the United States,” the diplomat said.
Russian lawmakers met with five U.S. congressmen led by the U.S. House Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia chairman on July 1 to discuss this issue among others.