Thailand Blocks Extradition of Russian "Lord of War" Viktor Bout
Thailand rejected the extradition plea from the US asking for Viktor Bout, the notorious Russian arms dealer nicknamed "the merchant of death". Viktor Bout will be set free if the US does not appeal within 72 hours. Bout is a suspected global arms trafficker who had business relationships with terrorist groups, warlords, and also American, British, French, and Russian customers. Bout was reportedly the inspiration for a 2005 film "Lord of War", played by Nicholas Cage.
The US accused Bout for selling millions of dollars worth of arms to Colombian rebels, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and conspiring to kill American citizens. Thailand's Criminal Court rejected the extradition because it recognizes FARC as a political organization, not a terrorist group. A judge, Jitakorn Patanasiri said:
A Thai court cannot judge a case regarding aliens killing aliens outside of Thailand.
On the other hand, a US diplomat in Bangkok, James Entwistle, said he was "disappointed and mystified" by the decision.
Bout is known as "the embargo buster", who tried to sell FARC a variety of weapons:
According to legal papers, Mr. Bout told undercover agents for the Drug Enforcement Administration that he could deliver 700 to 800 surface-to-air missiles, 5,000 AK-47 assault weapons, millions of rounds of ammunition, land mines, C-4 explosives and unmanned aerial vehicles, and that the weapons would be airdropped into the jungles of Colombia “with great accuracy.”
Bout gained his notority in 1990s when he was accused of selling weapons to African regimes and fueling the conflicts. The United Nations also identified him as one who armed former Liberian president Charles Taylor, who is under trial for war crimes. He is also known for aiding rebels in Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Bout has admitted working for his "very close friend" Jean-Pierre Bemba, a warlord who became the vice-president of Congo and is now in The Hague awaiting trial for orchestrating rape, mass murder and the use of child soldiers. Bout has suggested the charges against Bemba are trumped up.