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Russian Arms Dealer Gets 25 Years in New York Court
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A Russian arms dealer, Viktor Bout, who was apprehended in an undercover operation by U.S. agents feigning to be Colombian guerillas, was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Thursday, in New York.

Bout pleaded innocence during the sentencing and told the judge through an interpreter, “I never intended to kill anyone. I never intended to sell arms to anyone. God knows the truth.” Pointing at the federal agents in the court, Bout said “These people know this truth … They will live with this truth … God forgive you. You will answer to him, not to me.”

Bout was arrested in Bangkok in 2008 and extradited to New York. Last fall, he was convicted by a Manhattan federal court jury. The charges were that he had agreed to sell arms to alleged Colombian militants who were in fact U.S. agents.

  
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In 2007, investigative journalists Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun published the book “Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible,” based on the life of Bout showing him as an arms dealer and how he managed to avoid the law for years.

Viktor Bout was convicted on two counts: a conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals and officers of the United States, and one count each of conspiracy to sell anti-aircraft missiles and providing logistic support to a terrorist organization. Bout’s attorneys have expressed that they would go for an appeal and they hold that Bout’s case characterizes the persecution of an innocent man by the United States.

The defense attorney said that the prosecution failed because the case rested on Bout’s ‘promises’ and not on Bout’s actions. The defense held that there was gross misapplication of the law and the law did not envisage the inclusion of people like Viktor Bout, but intended terrorists and people intent on destroying Americans to be tried under it.

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U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin noted that a life sentence is called for due to conviction in a crime of terrorism. However, she noted that the alleged conduct of Bout was the result of a government sting operation, and that was a mitigating factor, though Bout had a long career as an arms dealer.

The judge also expressed doubt and noted “But for the approach made in this determined sting operation, it is unclear that Mr. Bout would have committed the charged crimes.”



However, U.S. authorities have mentioned that Bout has been involved in arms trafficking since the 1990s and has been an arms supplier to dictators and conflict zones in Middle East, Africa, and South America.



 

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