Russian arms dealer shifted to Brooklyn jail

New York, Feb 26 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout was shifted to a “general population” prison in Brooklyn after spending 15 months in a solitary confinement.

“Victor has been moved to another prison,” Andrei Garkusha, a member of his defence team, told RIA Novosti. “We spoke with him on the phone and he said everything was all right.”

Garkusha said Bout was allowed for the first time to walk outside his prison cell and “breathe fresh air.” He will also be allowed to make phone calls to his relatives and use the internet.

US District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled Friday there was “no rational basis” to believe that Bout posed a threat to prison guards or other inmates as there was no evidence that he had connections to terrorists or engaged in violent acts.

The 45-year-old former Russian military officer has been held in solitary confinement at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan since his extradition from Thailand 15 months ago.

His lawyers described the condition of his detention as “barbaric”.

Bout, known as the Merchant of Death, was arrested in Thailand in March 2008 during a sting operation led by US agents and extradited to the US in November 2010 after spending more than two and half years in Thai prisons.

On Nov 2 last year, the jury of the Federal District Court of New York unanimously found Bout guilty of conspiring to kill US officials and citizens, of acquiring and intending to use anti-aircraft missiles and providing support to terrorists.

Bout, who has denied all charges against him, faces from 25 years to life in prison. Sentencing is set for March 12.

–IANS/RIA Novosti