Russian arms dealer remanded in Thai prison
Wed, Mar 19, 2008

BANGKOK - A THAI court on Wednesday remanded Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout to a maximum-security prison outside Bangkok as investigators decide whether to prosecute him in Thailand, his lawyer said.

Bout, known as the 'Merchant of Death' for allegedly funneling arms to some of the world's most violent conflicts, was arrested in Bangkok on March 6 in a sting operation carried out by Thai police and US anti-drug agents.

Shortly after his arrest, he was sent to prison while Thai authorities investigated his case to determine if they could prosecute him here.

He can be held without charge for up to 84 days, but a court must re-approve his detention every 12 days.

'The court decided to detain him for another 12 days, because Thai authorities have not yet finished their investigation,' his lawyer Lak Nitiwatvichan said.

The United States has already begun the process of seeking Bout's extradition to face charges of conspiring to sell millions of dollars of weapons to Marxist FARC rebels in Colombia.

If Thai prosecutors decide to try him here, Bout would first go through the Thai criminal system before being handed over to the United States.

Bout's lawyers have insisted that he is an innocent man who runs a business servicing aircraft.

But the former Soviet air force officer is believed to have supplied arms to Taliban militia, Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda terror network, rebels in South America and former Liberian leader Charles Taylor. -- AFP

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