- arms trafficking - justice - Thailand
AFP - Thailand's government will appeal against a court decision rejecting a US request for the extradition of Russian alleged arms dealer Viktor Bout, an official said Thursday.
Bout, who has been dubbed the "Merchant of Death", has been fighting extradition since his March 2008 arrest in Bangkok while allegedly agreeing to supply missiles to Colombian rebels.
A Bangkok court on Tuesday said that it did not have the authority to order the extradition of the 42-year-old because the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was not listed as a terrorist group in Thailand.
But the kingdom's state prosecutor formally told the court on Thursday that he would lodge an appeal against the ruling, said Sirisak Tiyapan, executive director of international affairs at the Thai foreign office.
"The prosecutor has told the court that he intends to appeal against the decision. We are in the process of seeking the official ruling," Sirisak told AFP.
The prosecutor has 30 days in which to actually lodge the appeal, during which time Bout would remain in prison, he said. The court had given the government until Friday to say whether it would appeal.
News of the appeal came after the United States said it was "disappointed and mystified" by the court's decision to reject Bout's extradition and hoped the Thai government would appeal against the decision.
Bout's colourful life story is said to have inspired the Hollywood film "Lord of War" starring Nicolas Cage.
The former Soviet air force officer was arrested in a sting at a five-star Bangkok hotel after allegedly agreeing to supply surface-to-air missiles to US agents posing as guerrillas from FARC.
Bout had faced life in prison if sent to the United States and convicted there on terrorism charges, including conspiracy to kill US officers or employees and conspiracy to acquire and use an anti-aircraft missile.
He denied the charges and insists that he ran a legitimate air cargo business.
A US indictment accused him of using a fleet of cargo planes to transport weapons and military equipment to some of the world's most violent conflicts, in Africa, South America and the Middle East.
Bout would face life in prison if sent to the United States and convicted there on terrorism charges.
The nickname "Merchant of Death" was coined by a former British foreign office minister and also used for a 2007 book on Bout's alleged activities.