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Alleged arms dealer's arrest 'unlawful'

  • Story Highlights
  • The United States wants Viktor Bout extradited from Thailand
  • Bout, associate are accused of conspiring to sell weapons to Colombian rebels
  • British officials say Bout shipped arms to the Taliban and al Qaeda
  • Russian is said to have inspired Nicolas Cage role in movie "Lord of War"
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BANGKOK, Thailand (CNN) -- A lawyer for a purported Russian arms dealer said Monday his client had not committed any crime "anywhere in the world," adding that he would beat U.S. allegations that he tried to supply arms to Colombian rebels.

Viktor Bout, who has been called "The Merchant of Death," was arrested two weeks ago at a luxury hotel in Bangkok after a U.S.-led sting operation. He was charged with conspiracy for allegedly trying to smuggle missiles and rocket launchers to a rebel group in Colombia that is a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.

"Mr. Bout has declared his innocence," his Russian-based attorney Dasgupta Yan told reporters Monday. "He considers his arrest unlawful and groundless. He is not guilty of any crime in Thailand or anywhere else in the world."

Bout, 41, is alleged to have supplied weapons to various conflicts in Africa, from Angola to Sierra Leone. He was purportedly the model for the arms dealer portrayed by Nicolas Cage in the 2005 movie "Lord of War."

Bout is being held in a Thai prison while authorities investigate whether he used the country as a base to negotiate the deal with terrorists, though the United States is seeking his extradition.

A Thai court denied Bout bail last week. Suspects can be held up to 84 days in Thailand without being formally charged.

Yan described Bout as a "good Russian businessman" who operates an airplane servicing company in the country. He said Bout was in Thailand for tourism and business meetings, adding that he did not know the nature of the meetings.

Yan and Bout's Thai attorney, Lak Nitiwatanavichan, described the case against their client as weak and said authorities have shown them no evidence to support allegations that Bout was at the heart of the multimillion dollar arms deal.

"I don't see how Bout was involved," Lak told reporters.

"More importantly, Bout does not have a weapon-making factory and he is not involved in producing them," he said. "I don't see that they [the police] have any evidence. The accusation by the authorities is not at all clear."

Yan said Bout was in a "relatively good mood" in prison, though he was upset that he could not get newspapers in English or write letters home in Russian. He spends much of his time reading English translations of Thai law, he said.

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"His game is not over at all," Yan said, responding to media reports of what Bout had allegedly said when he was arrested. "I'm quite optimistic of Mr. Bout's future."

If convicted, Bout could face 10 years in prison on the Thai charge, and 15 years in the U.S. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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