WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — A prison term of Russian businessman Viktor Bout jailed in the United States may be increased over an interview he gave to an RT journalist who was not on the list of the allowable contacts, Bout's attorney Alexei Tarasov told Sputnik on Tuesday.
"The disciplinary proceedings were initiated against Russian national Viktor Bout over giving an interview to RT’s correspondent Murad Gazdiev, who was not on the list of allowable contacts in the materials of Marion prison,’’ Tarasov said. "If found guilty, Bout’s prison term can be increased or they can even put him back to solitary confinement."
Tarasov explained that Bout was allowed to talk to another journalist of the same channel.
"They indeed initially called her but then by means of three-way telephone communication, Gazdiev was connected, and Bout gave him an interview about his detention, how he is doing now," he explained.
"This interview was published. Of course, everything was listened during the conversation itself, and the prison’s authorities were aware of who Bout was talking with and that this person was not on the list of allowable contacts."
The lawyer noted that when a person is put in jail the release date is calculated on the basis that a prisoner demonstrates exemplary compliance with prison’s disciplinary regulations, but if there are disciplinary violations, the term is recalculated, and may be postponed.
"In the United States, prisoners get time off or reduction in sentence for good behavior which is some 54 days per year. For 20 years this can become a significant number," he stated. "The release date for Bout is the beginning of 2030, and it is if his behavior is ideal. I should note that initially his release date was 15 December 2029, but when he was caught producing alcoholic beverage on the territory of his cell, which actually was tea mushroom to treat indigestion, his term was increased by several months."
The attorney said that only recently Bout was transferred out from solitary confinement where he spent many years, and they are very concerned that he can be put back there because of this incident.
"It is a draconian regime, where he will have less time outside, less time for communication as well as contactless visits," he said. "Besides, we planned a visit for his wife from Russia who has not seen him for several years, since the end of the trial. But in the regime of isolation it is impossible, because she will only be able to see him through the window.’’
Tarasov pointed out that they consider this situation a ‘’flagrant violation of his rights to freedom of expression, freedom of speech."
"The fact that a person is in prison does not mean that he can’t communicate," he said. "There was no violation, it was a journalist of the same channel. It was a decision of the channel to have another journalist interview Bout."
Undercover agents posing as members of Columbia’s FARC rebel group were used as part of the operation. Bout was extradited from Thailand to the United States where he is now serving the sentence.
Russia considers the case to be politicized and has repeatedly called on the US government to release Bout.