The alleged black-market arms dealer, Viktor Bout, has to appear in in court to face charges of conspiring to supply Colombian rebels with weapons.
Bout, the 43-year-old Russian, has maintained his innocence throughout two years in a maximum security prison in Thailand, will continue to fight the US’s extradition request.
“The defense believes Bout will not be safe in the US and he will not receive a fair trial.” – said his lawyer, Lak Nittiwattanawichan.
His lawyer said he would lodge a petition with the Thai government asking it to block the extradition, according to Nittiwattanawichan’s words.
The Thai government is not compelled to extradite Bout, but is almost certain to, given the high profile of the defendant, and strong American pressure. If he is not extradited within three months, he must be released.
The US and UN have claimed Bout, a former Soviet air force officer, has been a weapons trafficker since the 1990s, using a fleet of cargo plans to move arms to Africa, Central America and the Middle East.
Thailand has been under intense pressure from both US and Russia over Bout’s case.
The Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, discussed Bout’s case with his Thai counterpart, Kasit Piromya, during a meeting in Hanoi last month, saying the drawn-out appeal process was “beginning to raise questions” and expressing, pointedly, “the hope that Thai justice will not be subject to any pressure”.