A former Soviet military officer accused by the United States of offering to sell weapons to terrorist groups appeared in a New York federal court Friday for a pre-trial hearing. A trial date for Viktor Bout has been set for September.
The 43-year-old Bout appeared before a U.S. federal judge as his lawyers sought to update the court on preparations for trial. Bout’s court-appointed lawyers were previously given an extension to prepare his case, saying they were overwhelmed by the number of documents they needed to read through before they could begin.
A trial date of September 12th was set.
Bout was brought to the United States from Thailand two months ago. The Russian government has complained that his extradition was unlawful.
Bout has maintained his innocence and his wife says she believes that he was kidnapped. She and some of his other family members have been visiting New York waiting for the trial to begin. Speaking through an interpreter, Alla Bout says she thinks the charges against her husband are fabricated.
"The United States, over the course of eight years, cultivated this image of an evil mastermind. Apparently they have no other problems nowadays. There is no Osama Bin Laden. No al Qaida. Only Victor Bout," she said.
Alla Bout said U.S. authorities have granted her a three-hour visit with her husband on Monday. Usually such visits are limited to one hour.
Bout has been dubbed the "Merchant of Death" for allegedly selling an arsenal of weapons to small countries around the world, including Afghanistan, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Colombia.
He faces up to life in prison if convicted.