A New York court has rejected an appeal from Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout against his conviction on arms trafficking charges and set his sentencing for March 12.
On November 2 last year, the jury of the Federal District Court of New York unanimously found Bout, 44, guilty of conspiring to kill U.S. officials and citizens, of acquiring and intending to use anti-aircraft missiles and to providing support to terrorists.
U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin upheld Bout’s guilty verdict on Wednesday but seemed to agree with his lawyer’s demand to hold Bout under less restrictive conditions while he is awaiting sentencing.
Bout’s lawyer Albert Dayan in a letter to the court that his client who is denied the right to walk in the prison yard, has to spend “days and nights” in his solitary cell and is denied “basic, God-given rights, like fresh air and sun.”
“It seems harsh. It seems brutal,” Scheindlin said in response to the letter. “It seems like something should be done about it.”
The judge set a special hearing for Friday to discuss the issue further with prosecutors and defense.
Former Russian army officer Bout was arrested in Thailand in March 2008 during a sting operation led by U.S. agents and extradited to the United States in November 2010 after spending more than two and half years in Thai prisons.
Bout, who has denied all charges against him, faces from 25 years to life in prison.
Bout’s lawyers said they would continue the fight against his conviction and would lodge a new appeal immediately after his sentencing on Sunday.
Russian Vice Consul in New York Alexander Otchainov expressed disappointment with the court ruling in Bout’s case on Wednesday.
“The Russian position remains unchanged – Viktor Bout is not guilty,” Otchainov told reporters after the hearings.
Moscow believes that the evidence collected against Bout "is too thin to make far-reaching accusations".