Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Merchant of Death To Face Justice In US

Viktor Bout, the Russian arms dealer who was captured in Thailand in 2008, will face a federal judge in New York today on weapons charges.
Bout, who says he's a legitimate businessman, faces U.S. charges accusing him of having a gunrunning empire — a prosecution that American officials describe as a milestone in international efforts to cripple the flow of illicit weapons that fuel conflicts around the world.

The U.S. Department of Justice said an indictment charges Bout with four terrorism offenses: conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, conspiracy to kill U.S. officers or employees, conspiracy to acquire and use an anti-aircraft missile and conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

'Unprecedented political pressure'
The Russian Foreign Ministry reacted with strong words after Bout was hustled from a Thai prison to a waiting jet early Tuesday. Russia branded the extradition "unlawful," prompted by "unprecedented political pressure from the USA."
Story: Russia blasts accused arms trafficker's extradition

Thai police commandos, clad in combat gear and masked by balaclavas, accompanied Bout to the tarmac at Bangkok's Don Muang airport. There, several Westerners wearing U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration jackets shepherded him onto the chartered jet.
The Russian government is angry at the US pursuing the extradition and potential trial of Bout. No doubt, a trial would have the potential to expose much about the shady world of arms dealers and connections with the Russian government. So, this news might also affect US-Russian relations, including on arms control deals and fighting terrorism across South Asia.

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