UPDATE: Bout Claims U.S. Tried to Force a Confession

Suspected international arms dealer Viktor Bout is claiming that he was pressured by U.S. authorities to confess on his extradition flight from Thailand to the United States, a deputy spokesman for Russia’s foreign ministry said Thursday.

Spokesman Alexei Sazonov told reporters at a news briefing in Moscow that Russian officials will closely monitor the charge and “respond accordingly.”

Deputy Russian Consul General Andrei Yushmanov told state media that Bout told him that he was subjected to “professional psychological pressure” during his extradition flight, Russia’s official news agency ITAR-TASS reported Thursday.

Bout is now in U.S. custody awaiting trial on charges that he agreed to sell millions of dollars of weapons to a Colombian narco-terrorist organization. He pleaded not guilty Wednesday in a U.S. courtroom in New York to four counts of terror-related crimes.

Since his extradition, Russia has urged U.S. authorities for a fair hearing in the case.

The alleged arms dealer faces charges of conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, conspiracy to kill U.S. officers or employees, conspiracy to acquire and use an anti-aircraft missile, and conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization. In this case, that would be the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC.

Bout appeared before U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin wearing a brown t-shirt, black track pants and black sneakers. He was given headphones to hear the court proceedings translated into Russian, but Bout — who speaks six languages — spoke English to the judge and his attorney. The hearing lasted about 10 minutes.

If Bout is convicted on all counts, he could face a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison. The U.S. Attorney handling the case, Preet Bharara, also announced an unsealed guilty plea of an alleged Bout associate, Andrew Smulian, on the charges.

Bout arrived in New York late Tuesday, after being extradited from Thailand. The Russian citizen and former Soviet military officer is being held in a high-security prison in Manhattan until his trial, the Justice Department said.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, Interpol Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC Litigation.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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