A Russian arms smuggler currently serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States dared President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday to help send him home upon taking office.
Viktor Bout, 49, was convicted in 2011 of conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens and officials, delivery of anti-aircraft missiles and providing aid to a terrorist organization, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). After his bid for a retrial was rejected Monday by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Bout and officials in Russia said they hoped Mr. Trump will authorize Bout’s extradition once in the White House and resolve the lengthy row between Moscow and Washington.
“A year and a half ago, the Russian government proposed that an international tribunal would sort out this quagmire, not to mention that President-elect Donald Trump promised to drain this swamp,” Bout told Russia’s TASS news wire Tuesday, adding that it was “useless” to argue his case in the Second Circuit where “everything that is brought there by prosecutors is gleefully rubber-stamped by the court.”
“We will use all legal possibilities, everything that we have, we will fight our way,” Bout said of appealing further. “But you can definitely say that this system is a foul cesspool. What can you expect from it other than clammy laughter and these murky, underhanded deeds?”
Bout’s legal team had hoped to argue on appeal that that a recent documentary about his case contained information that raised new questions about the U.S. government’s investigation into the arms dealer. Absent a retrial and potential overturning of his conviction, Bout has fought to finish serving his quarter-century prison sentence closer to his family in Russia.
Alexey Tarasov, his lawyer, said this week’s rejection means Bout will likely continue to serve out his prison sentence in the U.S. unless his case is heard by the Supreme Court or he’s extradited home.
Bout’s wife, Alla, told Russia’s MK newspaper that her husband’s conviction was “politically motivated” and that Mr. Trump represented the “last hope” at having him returned home following years at fighting for his extradition.
“We’ll be hoping that the program of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump who has stated his intention to normalize relations with Russia will be supported by real deeds,” she added to TASS.
Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian foreign ministry’s envoy for human rights, democracy and the supremacy of law, called the ruling “unacceptable” and said it “demonstrates the politicized nature of this case and biasedness of the American authorities in respect of the Russian citizen.”
“We will work with the Obama administration despite the fact that the situation with violations of the rights of Russian citizens has dramatically deteriorated under it, with arrests of our citizens in third countries becoming a generally used practice,” he said, TASS reported. “Until January 20, we will go on working with the current administration, and, naturally, we will continue to work on this priority matter with the Trump administration as well.”
Russia asked the Department of Justice to extradite Bout back home to finish his sentence in 2013, but the request was rejected.
“If now a truly sovereign U.S. president comes to power, who will be able to make decisions independently, this would be a completely different case,” Bout told TASS Tuesday. “Possibly, big politics will find its way and this issue will be solved, as this is indeed one of the stumbling blocks in the way for establishing normal relations.”