U.S. refusal to repatriate Bout causes

The U.S. Justice Department's refusal to repatriate Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who has been sentenced to 25 years in prison in the United States, has caused "concern" in Moscow, a Russian human rights commissioner said on Saturday, adding the Russia would keep fighting for Bout's return to his country.

"The allegations about his supposedly criminal past are surprising," Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry's commissioner for human rights, democracy and rule of law, told Interfax.

Dolgov mentioned that Russia had repeatedly claimed that the Bout case was a politicized affair. He expressed hope that the American court that will consider Bout's appeal against his sentence would show impartiality in dealing with the matter.

Russia "will continue to make use of all available diplomatic and legal resources for the handover of Bout to Russia," Dolgov said.

Moscow would also press for better living conditions for Bout in jail in line with the United States' international commitments, the commissioner said.

A former head of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), Nikolai Kovalyov, who today is a State Duma deputy representing the ruling United Russia party, said the Justice Department's refusal to repatriate Bout "is undoubtedly a political decision, and it definitely had the approval of the U.S. leadership."

Kovalyov took issue with the Justice Department's point that Bout is guilty of serious crimes. "This actually raises strong doubts because Bout fell victim to provokers whose official duties were to fight drug trafficking," he said.

"Those drug trafficking fighters had been caught by American authorities, and, in order to earn the reputation of people working for national benefit, they carried through that operation, which involved a discussion between Bout and those dummies about hypothetical supplies of weapons," Kovalyov said.

"Since it was supplies of weapons that were discussed, Bout unfortunately failed to give a flat refusal to those people, and paid for this," the ex-FSB chief said. "There had been no supplies of weapons, and Bout wouldn't have been able to carry them out either."

Kovalyov said that, under U.S. law, it must be at least two years before Russia may again seek Bout's return to Russia so that he serves the rest of his sentence at home. "I'm sure that in two years' time Bout will be extradited to his country, after all," Kovalyov said.

"The Americans are afraid that, if they let Bout out, he will tell in detail of all that has happened to him, and the entire world will shudder when it hears how and why an innocent man has been put in jail for 25 years," he said.

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