Fighting Extradition, “Merchant of Death” Cites Guantanamo

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The world’s most infamous (translation: successful) black market arms dealer was arrested last March in Thailand, taken down by an international sting operation spearheaded by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Since then, Russian Viktor Bout has been held in a Bangkok prison, awaiting extradition to the United States, where he will face terrorism charges. The trial, if it ever takes place, is likely to be somewhat thorny for the U.S. government, which contracted with Bout-controlled firms to transfer weapons and supplies into Baghdad in the months immediately following the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But let’s forget about that for now… Bout’s attorney is pulling out all the stops in his effort to prevent his client’s extradition. The latest tactic? Remind the world of what the Americans have been doing to prisoners held on terrorism charges—namely, locking them up and throwing away the key. Thai lawyer Chamroen Panompakakom today pointed a Bangkok courtroom’s attention to the case of Hambali, an Indonesian Al Qaeda leader also captured in a Thailand. In 2003, he disappeared into Guantanamo and has yet to stand trial. There’s little doubt of Bout’s guilt. He was caught red-handed in the act of selling surface-to-air missiles to what he believed to be members of the Colombian FARC. But if he manages to evade the U.S. legal system, it could well be the latest perversion of law to result from Guantanamo: Bout avoids his day in court, while Guantanamo’s inmates would love nothing more than to have theirs. Oh, the irony….

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