FACTorial: Viktor Bout – “It’s a lie!”

April 6, 2012

Justice denied by mandatory minimum sentence

Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) has been calling for justice for Viktor Bout since his arrest in Bangkok in March 2008. We believe in fairness, justice and rule of law for everybody no matter who they are. For anyone to prejudge Bout on the basis of his reputation which, no doubt, has been contrived and embellished by the US govt, is to reject any notion of basic human rights or justice, equally applied to all.

The Viktor Bout case serves as the best example of American injustice we’ve seen recently.

The US DEA comes to Thailand to entrap Bout. Royal Thai Police allow the US to do this. Bout was arrested by foreign agents on Thai sovereign soil. By the D.E.A.?!? What drugs?!?

Entrapment is specifically illegal in the high-minded USA. But US agents have no such scruples when operating on foreign soil. In this case, a convicted criminal informer, Carlos Sagastume, was given nine million dollars by the USA, the highest amount ever given to a rat, to pose as an agent of Colombia’s FARC guerrillas, to entrap Bout.

He was kidnapped by the USA and shanghaied into a Thai gaol cell to await extradition. After a year, his extradition was refused by the Thai courts as Bout committed no crime in Thailand and Thailand does not list FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, as a terrorist organisation.

However, Bout was not freed: the USA appealed and, predictably, won. Bout was then renditioned by US DEA agents without any formal extradition documents filed in Thailand to a govt jet waiting on the tarmac at Don Muang. He was not permitted time to say goodbye to his wife or tell her what was happening or even collect his meagre prison possessions.

Thailand has a long and slavish, toadying history with the US. We always surrender our sovereignty to the Americans.

Federal prosecutors said the government initiated its investigation in 2007 because Bout “constituted a threat to the United States and to the international community based on his reported history of arming some of the world’s most violent and destabilizing dictators and regimes.”…”who pose the gravest risk to civilized societies.” That pretty much describes American foreign policy!

Viktor Bout got a 25-year sentence because the US govt sets mandatory minimum sentences for each criminal offence which judges are required to follow. Judge Sheindlin proved herself reasonable and fair-minded throughout Viktor Bout’s hearings.

“Scheindlin…argu[ed] that nothing in the record indicated that Bout was violent or linked to any terrorist organization.

“This is a businessman,” Scheindlin said, indicating Bout. “You might not like the business he’s in.” That business, the judge pointed out later, was “the arms business.”

“This country sells a lot of arms,” Scheindlin added.”

But, ultimately, America does not trust its judges, many of them highly educated, intelligent, sensible, calm and equanimous to make such decisions using their own discretion on the basis of the individual circumstances of each case.

In 2005, a case was tried with identical facts to Bout’s but not involving the DEA which resulted in a 3½ to 4 year sentence for a Macau citizen. But the judge’s hands in the Bout case were tied by mandatory minimums. The US govt sought a life sentence.

We applaud Judge Sheindlin, who came to the bench in 1994, for her courage and fairness. It should be of grave concern to the learned judge that her govt does not trust its judges any more than it trusts its citizens.

“But for the approach made through this determined sting operation, there is no reason to believe Bout would ever have committed the charged crimes,” she said.

Naturally, Bout’s lawyers intend to appeal within the limited period an appeal must be filed. However, it might be better strategy to immediately apply for prisoner transfer to Russia. In our observation, however, such transfers may take in administrative proceeding the full sentence if they are approved at all. It would seem that govts have written prisoner transfer treaties to give the appearance of fairness, not its substance. Despite treaty obligations, such transfer may be denied by either country without giving reason.

The USA thinks it caught a prize trophy. The Bout case was just one more to keep Americans in fear, trusting their govt to protect them from evils they don’t understand or want to. It is unlikely the US would let Viktor Bout go. They stuffed him, now they want to mount him on the wall.

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