Thursday, August 19, 2010

Big Win For U.S.

In 2008, the U.S. worked with Thai officials to execute a sting on suspected arms smuggler Victor Bout.  Some say that Bout's life was the inspiration for the movie, Lords of War.  Bout is also wanted in several European countries for similar type charges. 

The U.S. attempted to have Bout extradited to the U.S. where he faces terrorism charges, while Russia fought hard to prevent this, as he is also alleged to have significant ties to and information about Russian intelligence.  Both sides were lobbying to prevail, with accusations that both were offering bribes to win.

Last year, the Russians won a victory when a lower court judge denied the extradition request, stating that the group that Bout was allegedly selling weapons to in the sting, FARC, a South American group the U.S. labels as a terrorist group, was actually only considered a political group by Thailand. 

Yesterday the Thai appeals court reversed the lower court, ruling that Bout could be extradited to the U.S.  It is not clear if an appeal to the Thai Supreme Court is possible, but if so, you can count on Bout and Russia exercising that option. 

While waiting for the appeal, Russia requested that Bout be allowed to stay in the Russian embassy instead of in a Thai jail, promising that he would not leave the country.  I think the Thai courts were wise in denying that request, as once he was released to Russian custody, any future legal victory to secure his extradition would likely be moot. 

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