Topic: Viktor Bout case
MOSCOW, September 24 (RIA Novosti) - Colombia has appealed to Thailand over its decision not to extradite alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout to the U.S., the Kommersant daily reported on Thursday.
Former Russian army officer Bout, 42, was arrested in Thailand in March 2008 during a sting operation led by U.S. agents.
The Bangkok Criminal Court refused in August to extradite Bout to the United States, where he is accused of conspiring with others to sell millions of dollars' worth of weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), among other illegal arms deals, and "threatening the lives of U.S. citizens."
In a 300-page letter from Colombian Foreign Minister Jaime Bermudez, Bout is described as "a very dangerous illegal arms dealer" and suspected of attempting to sell 100 Russian-made 9K38 Igla man-portable infrared homing surface-to-air missiles (NATO code name Grouse missile) to FARC.
"We would like to draw attention to the on-going legal process in which, as we hope, the [Thai] authorities will not be able to release such an illegal arms dealer as Viktor Bout, who is dangerous to the entire world," the letter read.
The United States is seeking Bout's extradition on charges he conspired to sell FARC weapons including more than 700 surface-to-air missiles, thousands of guns, high-tech helicopters and airplanes outfitted with grenade launchers and missiles. He has been indicted on four terrorism-related charges in New York and could face up to life in jail.
Colombia listed 607 reasons in the letter why FARC is considered a terrorist organization. The U.S. and the European Union also list FARC as a terrorist group.
However, Thai courts established that FARC is not a terrorist organization but a political one since it has a controlled territory and a population that lives in that territory.
Bout has been linked to some of the world's most notorious conflicts, allegedly supplying arms to former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. He has repeatedly denied the accusations.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said it will give Viktor Bout all the support he needs. The ministry said it hoped Thailand would not reverse its initial decision of not extraditing Bout to the United States.
Bout's nickname, the "Merchant of Death," came in 2000 from a minister at Britain's Foreign Office who was concerned about Bout allegedly ferrying weapons around Africa. He has been the subject of UN sanctions, a Belgian money-laundering indictment and an assets freeze by the United States.
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