Convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout asks Moscow to intervene
MOSCOW -- Convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, sentenced last week to 25 years in American prison, Thursday urged the Russian government to sue the United States on his behalf in order to help him get back to Russia.
In a brief televised news conference organized by the Russian RAPSI news agency, Bout, speaking from a detention facility in Brooklyn, said that legal action before the International Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg by the Russian government is his "main hope" now.
Bout, 45, known as the "Merchant of Death," was sentenced in a U.S. federal court in New York last week to a 25-year minimum mandatory sentence for conspiring to acquire and use antiaircraft missiles. He also was also sentenced concurrently on three other counts of conspiracy to kill Americans and to provide material support to a terrorist organization, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
Bout asked Thursday that the Russian State Duma, the national parliament’s lower house, file the lawsuit against both the United States and Thailand, where he was arrested and later extradited in 2010. He also asked the Russian government to organize a commission to investigate his case.
“I am confident that if Russia will come to the bottom of what happened and make a confident and tough statement I will come back home very quickly,” Bout said. “I haven’t committed anything and I will make no deals and no confessions.”
Bout denied speculation that he had ties with the Kremlin and Prime Minister and now President-elect Vladimir Putin and termed his trial an “inquisition.”
“I was tried not for what I did but for the myth that they themselves created,” said Bout, who also admitted that he had expected a life sentence.
Bout declined to comment when asked whether he was satisfied with the legal support rendered up to now by the Russian government. Asked if he was contemplating any other ways of getting out of prison, an escape for instance, he said: “I will not answer this question as it may have negative consequences for me.”
Bout said he was satisfied with his current prison treatment.
The Russian parliament is preparing a statement about Bout, a Russian lawmaker said Thursday.
“I am not sure parliament is authorized to appeal to international justice on somebody’s behalf, but that can be done by individuals,” Leonid Kalashnikov, deputy head of the State Duma international affairs committee, said by phone. “I don’t want to question the decision of a U.S. court now, knowing that in terms of justice it is much more independent than any Russian court, but Bout was arrested and extradited from Thailand with gross violations of human rights and we should certainly act on that.”
“Abuse of personal freedoms and human rights cannot be justified by any political considerations,” he added.
-- Sergei L. Loiko
Photo: Russian reporters attend a news conference Thursday in Moscow that included a phone call with jailed arms dealer Viktor Bout from the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, with his photo displayed on a video screen. Credit: Alexander Zemlianichenko / Associated Press.