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Closing Arguments in Bout Trial Under Way

  • Larry Freund

Suspected Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout (C) is escorted by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officers after arriving at Westchester County Airport in White Plains, New York November 16, 2010.

Suspected Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout (C) is escorted by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officers after arriving at Westchester County Airport in White Plains, New York November 16, 2010.

The trial in New York of an accused Russian arms dealer, Viktor Bout, entered its final phase on Monday as the jury heard closing arguments from prosecution and defense attorneys.

Prosecuting attorney Anjan Sahni told jurors they should reach a "simple and inescapable conclusion", that Viktor Bout is guilty of all of the charges against him. The U.S. government says Bout, a former Soviet military officer, is an international arms trafficker. The government charges that he conspired to supply weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, to kill Americans. The United States has listed FARC as a terrorist organization.

During the trial that began three weeks ago, the jury heard testimony from U.S. informants who posed as FARC members. They said that Bout had discussed the sale of arms. Andrew Smulian, who is also charged in the arms conspiracy, testified that Bout was eager to sell weapons to two men who acted as FARC representatives. Smulian, a South African, was arrested with Bout in Thailand in 2008.

During his closing arguments, prosecutor Sahni said Bout had agreed not only to provide weapons and trainers, but also to deliver them to FARC. He said that Bout’s wiretapped conversations devastate the defense's claim that this simply was a scam for Bout to sell two old Russian cargo planes to FARC. The prosecutor said Bout was serious about the weapons deal and that the only verdict consistent with the evidence is guilty.

Bout’s defense attorney, Albert Dayan, responded in his summation that all that prosecutors have offered in the trial is "speculation, innuendo and conjecture." He said the government’s case is based on speculation, not the type of evidence that would allow the jury to find Bout guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, as required by U.S. law. Dayan said Viktor Bout is not an arms dealer, and he asserted that Smulian, a co-conspirator in the case, lied when he testified during the trial.

Pointing to sections of trial transcripts, Dayan argued that Bout never intended to go through with the arms sale, and that he used the deal as a way to sell the two aircraft to FARC. He told the jury that the defense had proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and that all Bout wanted to do was sell airplanes.

Dayan later spoke briefly with reporters. “All the information we wanted the jury to know, I believe we have delivered with success and the rest is in their hands. It’s for them now time to deliberate, and hopefully they will reach the right and just verdict," he said.

The trial is scheduled to continue on Tuesday with the prosecution’s rebuttal and the judge’s instructions to the jury. The jury then will begin its deliberations. Bout faces a sentence of up to life in prison, if the jury finds him guilty.

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