Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Russian arms dealer in Thailand accuses US of trumped charges

Lawyer says US trumped up Russian arms dealer charges

BANGKOK (AFP) — A lawyer for alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout accused the US government Tuesday of trumping up charges against him in a bid to secure his extradition from Thailand.

Defence lawyer Preecha Prasertsak, testifying at a Bangkok court, said the arrest warrants first issued by US authorities and Thailand for Bout failed to mention a murder charge.

He said the United States changed its warrant to conform to the existing extradition treaty between Washington and Bangkok.

"The US has increased the charges against Bout, alleging he killed a US citizen in Colombia because they know the arrest warrant for arms smuggling is not enough (to extradite Bout)," he told the court.

"My client has never been to America, he has never been to Colombia. He has never done what they accuse him of," Preecha said.

Bout, arrested in Bangkok on March 6 after a sting operation conducted by US agents and Thai police, faces life in prison if sent to the United States and convicted on terrorism charges.

He has been held at a maximum-security prison outside Bangkok since his arrest.

Dubbed the "Merchant of Death", he is accused of being a global gun-runner since the 1990s. He is believed to have supplied arms to the Taliban militia, Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda terror network and former Liberian leader Charles Taylor.

The former Soviet air force officer denies the charges against him.

No comments: