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The US judge in the arms trafficking trial of Viktor Bout expressed worry that the ex-Soviet air force officer is so notorious that Googling his name could ruin a juror's impartiality.
Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin said that this could be "a major problem" in making sure that the jury trial, which starts October 11, is fair.
'Merchant of death' trial opens in New York
After evading international authorities for nearly two decades, alleged international arms and drug smuggler Viktor Bout, widely dubbed the "merchant of death" by his accusers, went on trial in New York Tuesday.
The Russian businessman is charged with a wide range of counts, including conspiracy to kill Americans, attempting to sell arms to undercover federal agents, wire fraud and violating U.N. Security Council sanctions. Bout pleaded not guilty to all charges last year.
By Kathi Austin – Special to CNN
Fifteen long years. That’s roughly the amount of time I’ve spent as an arms trafficking investigator for non-governmental organizations and the United Nations, tracking a man who now stands on trial for widespread weapons smuggling - a former Soviet military officer named Viktor Bout. This is the man who, over the years, has been dubbed the “Lord of War” and “Merchant of Death.”
While collecting evidence on his operations, I’ve survived plane crashes traveling with his European pilots, sprung U.N. snap inspections of his Russian aircraft at remote jungle airports with the backing of armed U.N. peacekeepers, cajoled his business associates into handing over incriminating documents and swum in treacherous waters to obtain the hidden paper trail that put some of Bout’s “front companies” on a U.N. sanctions travel ban and assets freeze list.
Still, in all this time, I have never once come face to face with Bout. He has always managed to stay one step ahead of other determined colleagues and me.
Today, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, on the opening day of United States v. Viktor Bout,that will finally change.
I will, at last, face Bout.
At #NYC courthouse waiting for #ViktorBout trial. 3 other big trials competing for media. I say this is epic for peace & security!
Attorney's gave opening statements. First witness: DEA lead investigator on the stand. Trial recess 'til 17 Oct. My next blog post Friday.
seated as juror number one in jury box during #ViktorBout trial
By Kathi Austin - Special to CNN
On the opening day of the Viktor Bout trial, Judge Shira Scheinlin invited the unusually large, eighty person jury pool to be seated in the courtroom gallery. That meant that I and other members of the press and public were directed by a stern U.S. marshal to sit in the jury box. Because I had been first in line waiting for the trial to begin, I found myself seated as juror number one.
I directly faced dark-suited, mustached Viktor Bout, sitting to the left of his two trial lawyers, a study in contrasts—the elder, restrained Kenneth Kaplan beside the dapper lead attorney, Albert Dayan. It was a surreal moment, with both Viktor Bout and myself behind our composed courtroom masks. From my long experience tracking Bout’s activities, I can say we were both out of character. We both are more accustomed to a different kind of front line, under a different kind of glare—the equatorial sun of jungle war zones.
I never saw Viktor Bout look me in the eye while I sat distracted despite the comfortable chairs of the jury box, and he faced a possible life sentence on charges of conspiring to provide surface-to-air missiles for the use in killing Americans. What was going through my mind were the images from my years as an arms trafficking investigator—of particular people, even close friends, who had become victims of the many dirty wars I had witnessed, wars aided and abetted by Bout and other arms smugglers.
To help make his case, Mr. McGuire told jurors that, among other documentary evidence and testimony, he would introduce two key witnesses stand who oversaw the transport of military grade weaponry to an African conflict zone for Bout in the late 1990’s. Another former colleague of Bout’s in the African arms business, co-conspirator, Andrew Smulian, also will also testify as a result of a plea bargain agreement with the U.S.
McGuire’s précis of the case means that this will be the first time the public hears precise details of Viktor Bout’s gunrunning operations in Africa—straight from the mouths of those involved. Very likely we’ll hear unsavory arms trade details of the kind that NGOs, journalists and UN investigators have been uncovering for years, too often without getting heard.
Bout then attended what’s known as “School 47,” a training ground for KGB agents. Bout has always denied he was a member, although everyone who has studied or investigated Bout has concluded that his nascent career as an arms dealer in the mid-1990s -- after the Cold War, the former Soviet Union had an abundance of weaponry and very little money -- was backed with a $120,000 investment from retired KGB members. At the very least, he was acquainted with future President Vladimir Putin. Bout was 25 years old.
Bout was convicted of conspiracy to kill US citizens and officials, deliver anti-aircraft missiles and provide aid to a terrorist organisation.
The jury in New York Federal Court found Russian reputed arms dealer Viktor Bout guilty on all four charges.
All 12 jurors unanimously agreed to find Bout guilty of conspiracy to kill U.S. officials and nationals, conspiracy to sell missiles and conspiracy to support terrorism by cooperating with a Colombian terrorist group.
Editor’s Note: Kathi Lynn Austin, a former Arms Trafficking Expert for the United Nations, is the Executive Director of the Conflict Awareness Project (CAP). Her forthcoming memoir, The Unofficial Spy, is due out in 2012. For more from Kathi Austin, follow her on Twitter. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Kathi Austin.
Originally posted by illuminnaughty
So this guy gets 25 years in jail for supplying arms to terrorists. Whats the differance between him and the people who supplied gadafis rebels? Or the people supplying Syria`s free army with weapons? The USA has said it will supply them with radios ect. Also the Saudi`s who are supplying money and weapons to them?
Former Liberian president Charles Taylor was sentenced to 50 years in prison Wednesday for war crimes and crimes against humanity over his involvement in the Sierra Leone civil war that killed more than 50, 000 people in the 1990s.
Taylor’s conviction is the first by an international tribunal against a head of state since the World War II trial at Nuremberg. It is also the first against a former African leader.
He is expected to serve jail time in a British prison.