Russia slams arms smuggler sentence

2012-04-06 12:02
Moscow - Russia on Friday condemned a US court's sentencing of arms smuggler Viktor Bout as "baseless and biased" and said it would do all it could to ensure his return home.

"The Russian foreign ministry views the US court verdict sentencing Viktor Bout to 25 years in prison as baseless and biased," the ministry said in a statement.

It added that Moscow would make "all possible efforts to return Viktor Bout to the Motherland, using for this all the existing international legal mechanisms", repeating a call it made on November 3 when he was found guilty.

Bout, 45, was sentenced to 25 years in jail on Thursday after being found guilty of conspiring to sell arms to anti-US guerrillas in Colombia. He was the inspiration behind the arms smuggler played by Nicolas Cage in Lord of War (2005).

The Russian ministry condemned the US jury trial, saying that it relied on "shaky evidence" and accusing the legal system of carrying out a "clear political order".


It also said that Bout's case would "remain among our priorities on the Russian-US agenda".

The head of the Russian lower house of parliament's international affairs committee, Alexei Pushkov, said on Friday he believed Bout had not committed a crime and accused the US of anti-Russian bias.

"The Russian public has the sense that any case involving Russian citizens or Russian émigrés is decided in the US not to the benefit of Russia, without considering its position or even despite it," he said, cited by the ITAR-TASS news agency.

He said that Russia would judge the US by its position on extraditing Bout, seeing it as an indicator of "its readiness to overcome the conflict situations that have built up".

Another top parliamentary official, Pavel Krashenninikov, said "the Russian authorities must try to do all they can to achieve" Bout's extradition.

But Krashenninikov, the head of the lower house's legislative committee, added that the "chances of this are extremely small".

Bout's wife, Alla, earlier called the 25-year sentence handed to her husband a "victory" because it was the minimum possible, in comments broadcast on Russian television.

"The sentence they gave Viktor today is evidently an acknowledgement of the failure of the conclusions and arguments of the prosecution," she said in comments outside the courtroom.

"I consider this is a victory for Viktor and his defence."

Bout's defence team also announced plans to appeal his sentence.

Bout condemned his trial as a farce in an interview published in Izvestia daily on Friday, and said he did not believe an appeal would be successful.

"The trial against me is a real farce, a tragicomedy taken to absurd lengths," he said in an interview given hours before his sentencing.

"Even the minimum sentence the judge could give, 25 years, is equivalent to a life sentence. After all, I'm 45 now."
Read more on:    us  |  russia

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