|Bout was psychologically pressured during flight to US-RF consul|
NEW YORK, November 18 (Itar-Tass) - “Professional psychological pressure” was exerted on Viktor Bout during the flight from Thailand to the United States, Russian Consul General in New York Andrei Yushmanov said in an interview with Itar-Tass on Wednesday evening after a meeting with the Russian businessman extradited to the United States.
“Obviously, there was also a professional psychologist among the agents (of the Drug Enforcement Administration) escorting him on the airplane,” the consul general said. “He was given a hint that not only he alone is under threat, but also his family - his wife and 16-year-old child.” “The interviewer at the same time was insistently leading him to a conclusion that the threat is coming from Russia, from Bout’s motherland,” Yushmanov conveyed the defendant’s words. “In particular, he was offered to tell more about his activities and all his contacts - in this case the agent paid special attention to the contacts.” “For cooperation with the US justice he had been promised not only benefits but also that all will be well with him and his family,” the Russian businessman said at a meeting with the consul.
However, stressed Yushmanov, Viktor Bout, in his own words, “dismissed all the hints, because he certainly felt no guilt.” At the same time the Russian citizen noted good conditions, which were created for him during the flight from Thailand to the United States, adding that he was “even given the same food as the escort.”
At the same time, the consul general stressed, “absolutely all was confiscated - personal belongings, clothes, watches, absolutely all the money and documents” from the Russian in the prison in Thailand. Therefore, he is currently experiencing an elementary lack of personal hygiene - not even soap to take a shower, and the money to buy it all. “He just feels cold,” said Yushmanov. “All this, in view of fatigue after a long flight, a complex agenda and climate change, of course, affect his health.” At the same time, the official said, “Bout keeps a stiff upper lip and shows good spirits.”
The consul general also said that Russian authorities would give assistance to Viktor Bout providing him with all the necessary things for the time of the investigation, including the hiring of paid lawyers. “All this will happen soon, because there is little time left before January 10 (the court’s next meeting),” he said.
“Viktor also asked to convey his regards to his family and arrange for him a contact with his wife,” the consul general noted. He also said that the Consulate is going to help the Russian citizen to find good paid lawyers, although at present “he has no claims to the free lawyer provided by the court.”
According to Yushmanov, representatives of the prison will meet with Bout soon in order to tell him about all his rights, duties, regulations and rules that exist in this facility.
The Consulate General for its part intends to turn to the prison administration in order to lay out all the claims and issues the Russian citizen has at this point regarding his detention in custody.
Bout’s extradition and delivery to the United States took place amid high secrecy and security measures and came as a complete surprise not only to his relatives, but even to his local lawyer and Russian diplomats. Russia insists its diplomats should be granted access to Bout, and it calls for respecting his rights as a citizen of the Russian Federation. The Russian Foreign Ministry has accused the Americans of causing “unprecedented political pressures” on the government and judicial authorities of Thailand and promised to continue to protect the rights of Bout as a Russian citizen. “The whole affair is a sample of blatant injustice,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier.
Head of the State Duma’ committee on international affairs Konstantin Kosachev, said in an interview published by the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily that the Russian authorities were acting adequately. They have not interfered in the proceedings on the merits, but, feeling certain doubts about whether investigation and trial can be objective and fair enough in the US, they press for the unconditional compliance with Bout’s rights. Kosachev said that such behaviour by the US side was utterly unacceptable. “A very painful blow has been dealt on our mutual trust and our partnership. This will affect the climate of cooperation in the future. Following the path of some sort of sanctions or reprisals, or showing injured pride would be wrong. But we should draw conclusions regarding the sincerity of our partners.” “The fact that the Americans have used arm-twisting against the authorities of Thailand and brought Bout to their territory raises serious questions about the objectivity and fairness of the trial he may stand there,” he added.
Russia insists that suspected arms dealer Viktor Bout is given a fair trial, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. "We will not act as Bout's advocates and do not claim that he did not commit any illegal offences. That we do not know, and no-one will know, until justice is done," Lavrov said. He said Russia provides its citizens with all the rights guaranteed by international law.
"We want to see justice prevail, nothing more," he added.
The Russian top diplomat said Bout's case sparked too much speculation in Russian and Western media.
"We are accused of protecting a criminal, though he has never been found guilty of anything by any court. I would like to make it absolutely clear that we are always obliged to protect the rights of Russian citizens, regardless of whether this citizen is a suspect or not. Especially, when no trial has yet taken place," Lavrov said.
He also said that the Russian consul met with Bout on Wednesday, and such contacts would continue.
"We communicated with Russian citizen Victor Bout through our consul in New York. The conditions he is being kept in are not quite perfect," Lavrov said.
Bout, 43, was extradited to the United States on Tuesday after spending more than two and half years in Thai prisons. He was officially charged in a New York City court on Wednesday. His charges include conspiring to supply arms to terrorist groups and kill U.S. nationals.
The next hearing in the case of the former Russian officer, dubbed the Merchant of Death, will be held on January 10 next year. Bout could face a 25 year sentence if convicted on all four charges against him.
MOSCOW, November 19 (RIA Novosti)
Suspected Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, extradited from Thailand to the United States in mid-November, has given an interview to RIA Novosti.
Former Russian armed forces officer Bout was arrested in Thailand in March 2008 during a sting operation led by U.S. agents and extradited to the United States after spending more than two and half years in Thai prisons. The charges against him include conspiring to supply arms to terrorist groups and kill U.S. nationals. Bout denies all charges.
The next hearing in the case of the former Russian officer, dubbed the Merchant of Death by global media, will be held on January 10. Bout could face from 25 years to life behind bars if convicted of all four charges against him.
As Bout is kept in a New York pre-trial detention center, only lawyers and officials from the Russian Consulate can visit him, with other contacts prohibited. RIA Novosti correspondent Dmitry Gornostayev handed a list of questions to Bout and received answers via Russian Vice Consul Alexander Otchainov.
The text of the interview is below:
Q: Viktor, when did you realize that you would be extradited to the United States from Thailand and the extradition is irreversible?
A: This occurred on November 16, 17:30 local time. I was taken out of my cell on the pretext of being transferred to a new cell. I saw many police cars in the jail's yard, though cars never drove in there earlier. I saw many DEA [U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration] officers in jackets with badges. That's when I got it that my extradition will happen now.
The Thais brought me to the airport and changed my clothes in a separate room. Then I was handed over to U.S. agents.
Q: In September you had a similar situation when you were nearly transferred to the United States. What was the difference between these two situations?
A: In September the jail chief refused to extradite me without a warrant. A scandal triggered by the fact that an aide to the Thai prime minister had visited me unfolded in the Thai parliament. The scandal drew public attention to my case and my lawyers managed to prove that extradition was illegal at the time, which the Prosecutor's Office also announced then.
This time, everything was carried out without any documents at all. There were no legal differences from the September situation: the court was still considering my protest and appeal filed by my defense. In other words, the legal procedure was still underway and, in line with the law, no one had the right to take me out of the country.
Moreover, my lawyer told me via his U.S. colleagues that from the viewpoint of the Thai court, I am still in Thailand: the [Thai] Court of Appeal recently set for hearing another appeal filed by my defense.
I am sure that my extradition violated both Thai and international legal norms.
Q: You've told Russian Consulate employees that during the flight from Bangkok to New York, Americans were trying to force you to confess things you had not done. What did they offer and what did you respond?
A: They offered a milder sentence, a shorter term and an opportunity to bring my family to the United States in case I tell them everything I know about my ties in Russia and other countries. But I responded that I have nothing to tell them: I know nothing about the things they took interest in.
Q: Does the pressure continue? How does the jail administration treat you?
A: There have been no interrogations; the administration behaves in an impartial manner. Nothing that could be interpreted as pressure.
Q: What is the difference between the confinement conditions in the Thai and U.S. jails?
A: It's like comparing a zoo and a mental hospital. In Thailand inmates are kept in cages in relatively fresh air and treated like animals. In the United States they are treated like highly dangerous lunatics. Total control of each movement. No sunlight, air or sky. Nothing of the kind.
Q: What is the way you study the charges brought against you? Do you read the prosecution materials? Have you found something interesting, perhaps something very serious, or, vice versa, something ridiculous? What aspects have drawn your attention?
A: So far, I have no comments due to ongoing preparations for the trial.
Q: Are you afraid of the trial in the United States or do you hope it would set everything straight?
A: I believe the trial will definitely be biased and nonobjective. By saying this, I am proceeding from the fact that the U.S. government deliberately distorted facts about my life and work in the text of its charges. Information about me contained there is based on unverified data, rumors, misunderstandings and blatant lies.
For 10 years the government bodies of the United States have directly and through media been waging a war against me and my family. Streams of lies have been poured on us. In these conditions, no one here - including the judges - can be unbiased.
Only a thorough analysis of what's happening can help an American brainwashed in this manner learn the truth about the situation. But this requires effort. I am not sure anyone here would want to make this effort, though actually everything is rather simple. For example: what was posted on the Wikileaks website unambiguously proves the political nature of my case.
I think the American court will not try to sort out the actual objective side of the matter, as the practice of considering cases when foreigners are accused of a conspiracy against the United States shows that such charges automatically mean guilt.
Q: Have you heard of publications in the American press suggesting that a certain "Bout-for-Khodorkovsky" swap deal is being considered? What do you think of such rumors?
A: I think these rumors are ungrounded.
Q: Have you picked a private lawyer? If yes, who is it?
A: In order to hire an attorney, a person first of all needs money, which I currently don't have. The issue of private lawyer will be decided depending on whether I can find the funds to pay for his or her services.
Q: What do you do during the day? What is your mood?
A: I am kept in a special block of the detention center, in solitary confinement. All my contacts with the outside world are restricted to visits by Russian Consulate General employees and attorneys. I do physical exercise.
That which does not kill us makes us stronger. What I believe positive in this situation is support from my family and friends that I'm told of by consulate employees who visit me. And I am in the right mood to fight for the truth.
Q: What do you miss most now?
A: I'm missing books, communication with my relatives, hot tea. Only warm water is available in jail, so there's no way to make tea. I am a vegetarian so I need a lot of fruit and vegetables. Here I can only have one or two apples a day. I can buy some food in the jail shop, but not what I actually need.
News from Russia helps a lot. It's good that there's radio here.
I would like to wish a Happy New Year to RIA Novosti staff, especially to Yevgeny Belenky (correspondent in Thailand); I send regards to Alexander Gurnov, the Voice of Russia radio station, especially Pyotr Zhuravlyov. It's good to hear a familiar voice.