Bout Innocent, Says Deputy
Published: November 21, 2012 (Issue # 1736)
MOSCOW — The government needs to do more to protect the rights of Russians abroad, including convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout, the head of the State Duma’s International Affairs Committee said Monday.
Alexei Pushkov told a Duma round table dedicated to rights abroad that “Bout did not commit any crime” and was convicted in the U.S. “based on fabricated, forged documents,” Interfax reported.
The comments appeared as lawmakers mulled a response to the U.S. House of Representatives’ passage Friday of the Sergei Magnitsky Act, aimed at punishing Russian officials implicated in the whistle-blowing lawyer’s 2009 death in pretrial detention.
Over the weekend, Pushkov raised the prospect of a retaliatory “Bout List” against U.S. officials linked to the prosecution of the Russian arms dealer sentenced to 25 years in prison by an American judge in April.
Others at the round table also expressed support for Bout, and pledged to continue to press for his release.
“We’re not leaving this case. We’re going to work on it actively,” said Konstantin Dolgov, the Foreign Ministry’s human rights envoy.
The U.S. Justice Department recently turned down a request to have Bout extradited to Russia, citing the seriousness of his 2011 conviction of conspiring to sell weapons to a terrorist group, RIA-Novosti reported earlier this month.
Bout was arrested in Bangkok after attempting to sell weapons to U.S. agents posing as representatives of the Colombian rebel group FARC. He was extradited from Thailand to the United States in 2009.
The Foreign Ministry and individual lawmakers have promised “retaliation” for the Magnitsky legislation, and harsh words continued to fly Monday, with a senior United Russia official accusing opposition leader Mikhail Kasyanov of treason for supporting the bill.
Sergei Neverov said Kasyanov, co-leader of the People’s Freedom Party, or Parnas, was putting the interests of “a few American politicians” over Russia’s national interests, according to a statement on United Russia’s website.