The US Justice Department has turned down Russia’s request to extradite businessman Viktor Bout, currently serving a 25-year prison term. Moscow condemned the decision, saying it will continue to advocate for Bout.
The US Justice Department refused the extradition request over the seriousness of the crimes with which he was charged, among other reasons, Bout’s lawyer Albert Dayan said.
“We have received an official response from the Justice Department,” Dayan told Itar-Tass news agency. “The denial to grant the request is explained by the fact the prisoner has a pending appeal, by the seriousness of the crime, by objections from the law enforcement authorities, and also by the fact that his criminal past renders such request impossible.”
According to Dayan, the request for extradition to Russia may be filed again in two years.
“Our only hope right now is the appeal,” said Dayan, adding that Bout was “jailed for political reasons, and hasn’t committed any crimes.”
Bout maintained his innocence throughout the proceedings, and said the trial had been unfair after it ended.
The Russian Foreign Ministry condemned the US Justice Department’s decision. Konstantin Dolgov, Foreign Ministry Commissioner for Human Rights, Democracy and Rule of Law said that Russia will continue advocating for the businessman’s, who has not committed any crimes against the US or American citizens.
Bout was arrested in Thailand in 2008 on the request of the United States.
In November 2011, the former Soviet officer and founder of an air cargo company, was convicted by a New York federal court of “conspiracy to kill Americans and US officials,” and of supplying arms to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC), which the US government lists as a terrorist organization.
In April 2012, a US judge sentenced the Russian businessman to 25 years in jail, five years of supervised release, and a $15 million fine. Bout was charged with conspiracy to acquire and export surface-to-air anti-aircraft missiles. US prosecutors sought a life sentence for conspiracy to murder US citizens, but the judge found the charges unfounded.
Viktor Bout was later transferred to serve his sentence to a maximum security prison in Colorado dubbed the 'Alcatraz of the Rockies.' The move elicited condemnation from Moscow, who expressed concern for Bout's health and called the move a selective punishment that violated his human rights.