Thai PM denies role in court ruling to extradite Bout to U.S.

Thailand’s prime minister, Abhisit Wechachiwa, said on Tuesday that neither he nor his Cabinet made the decision to extradite Russia’s alleged arms dealer Viktor Bout to the United States.

Bout, an ex-Soviet military officer dubbed the Merchant of Death by western press, was arrested in Thailand in March 2008 and extradited to the United States on November 16 last year. Thai media reported that it was the decision of Wechachiwa and the Cabinet to hand the Russian over to the U.S. authorities.

“I did not make the decision and there was no order from the Cabinet concerning Bout’s transfer to the United States. We were notified about it by the Justice Ministry and the Prosecutor General of Thailand,” the prime minister said at his annual meeting with foreign journalists.

Bout, 44, is currently awaiting trial on charges including conspiring to supply arms to a Colombian terrorist group, conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, and several other charges, including money laundering. He spent more than two and half years behind bars in Thailand waiting for a decision on his extradition after he was arrested during a sting operation led by U.S. agents.

He denies all charges filed against him. He could face from 25 years to life in prison if found guilty under U.S. laws.

BANGKOK, March 22 (RIA Novosti)

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