Russian arms dealer Victor Bout's defense wins delay

Russian arms dealer Victor Bout's defense wins delay

A United States court agreed on Friday to give Russian alleged arms dealer Victor Bout's lawyers more time to study his case and adjourned a pretrial hearing until January 21, dpa reported.

Judge Shira Scheindlin of the Southern District in New York gave Bout's court-appointed lawyers an additional 11 days rather than the 30 days they requested. Bout had been scheduled to appear on Monday in court.

In their request, the lawyers said: "The adjournment is necessary as we are still reviewing the discovery in this case. The completion of our review has been slowed by both the volume of discovery and the restrictive conditions of Mr Bout's confinement."

They said a 30-day adjournment would serve "the ends of justice and outweigh the interests of the public and the defendant in a speedy trial."

Bout was extradited on November 16 from Thailand to the United States, prompting strong protests from the Russian government. He was wanted for allegedly trafficking in weapons that fueled civil wars from Afghanistan to Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Sudan.

Bout allegedly employed hundreds of people and had a fleet of airplanes and ships at his disposal to carry out his trade as one of the biggest arms dealers of recent decades.

Arms trafficking prosecutions are fraught with legal loopholes, which London-based international relief and development charity Oxfam said can allow arms traffickers to manoeuvre out of legal jeopardy in the absence of an international treaty regulating the lucrative arms trade around the world.

Oxfam and other non-governmental organizations have been campaigning for an Arms Trade Treaty through the United Nations, to regulate arms trafficking on the ground. Such a treaty would also fight terrorism and help prevent violations of international human rights conventions.

"Unscrupulous arms traders are experts at exploiting these legal loopholes - and without a binding treaty that regulates the global arms trade, we're just making it too easy for them to continue to do so," said Oistein Thorsen of Oxfam in New York.

"Even if one arms dealer faces trial, there are still dozens operating freely in this grey area of international law."

Supporters of an Arms Trade Treaty have called on UN governments to agree on such a binding deal to assist and encourage individual countries to fight traffickers. But UN talks bogged down in dispute among the world's biggest arms manufacturers. About 60 countries have established domestic legislation against arms trafficking.

A former Soviet Air Force officer, Bout, 43, was detained by Thai authorities in March 2008, in a US-led sting operation involving US agents acting as arms buyers for a leftist rebel group. Bout rejected charges against him, calling them "US fabrication."

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