Thai court grants extradition of `Merchant of Death`

A Thai court on Friday ordered the extradition of alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, dubbed the "Merchant of Death", to the US on terrorism charges, prompting an angry response from Moscow.

Last Updated: Aug 20, 2010, 23:55 PM IST

Bangkok: A Thai court on Friday ordered the
extradition of alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, dubbed
the "Merchant of Death", to the US on terrorism charges,
prompting an angry response from Moscow.

Bout, said to have inspired the Hollywood film "Lord of
War" starring Nicolas Cage, has been fighting extradition
since his March 2008 arrest in Bangkok in a sting operation
involving US agents posing as Colombian rebels.

He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if
convicted in the United States on charges including conspiracy
to kill US nationals and to provide material support or
resources to a foreign terrorist organisation.

His young daughter broke down in tears after a Bangkok
appeals court delivered its ruling, which his wife Alla later
said was "unfair" and made under political pressure from the
United States.

"The court has decided to detain him for extradition to
the US," judge Jitakorn Patanasiri said, overturning an
earlier decision by a lower court.

"This case is not political, it is a criminal matter,"
the judge said.

Moscow strongly criticised the ruling.
"We regret what is in my opinion an unjust decision, a
political decision that the appeals court in Thailand has
taken," Russian news agencies quoted Foreign Minister Sergei
Lavrov as saying on a visit to Armenia.

Bout, a 43-year-old former Soviet air force pilot who is
said to speak six languages and go by at least seven different
aliases, refused to talk to journalists as he was led out of
court in shackles.

The United States, which has described Bout as "one of
the world`s most prolific arms traffickers," had lobbied hard
to have him handed over.

The US State Department summoned the Thai ambassador this
week "to emphasise that this is of the highest priority of the
United States," spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters
yesterday.

"We believe that we`ve presented significant evidence to
justify his extradition to the United States," he said.

PTI