US asks Thailand to drop Bout charges to hasten extradition
Deputy Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said the request was sent on Monday to the ministry. It would pass it on to the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG).
US officials made the request to speed up the extradition of Mr Bout to the US to face terrorism charges after the Appeal Court on Friday overturned a Criminal Court decision that there were no grounds to support his extradition.
Public prosecutors filed the money laundering and fraud charges against Mr Bout on Friday on behalf of the US after Washington announced the new charges in February.
Mr Bout will have to stay in Thailand if the new charges are not dropped as the court has set Oct 4 for a first hearing.
A ministry source said earlier the US had approached Thailand on Friday to ask officials to drop the money laundering and fraud charges.
An official request was made on Monday.
The US Marshals Service sent a jet to the air force airport at Don Muang on Tuesday to pick up Mr Bout.
Mr Thani said there was no pressure from the US over the issue.
“Sending a jet to Thailand might have created confusion that Mr Bout was going to be extradited to the US instantly,” Mr Thani said.
“I would like to confirm that the US must wait for Thailand’s internal processes to be concluded before the extradition can go ahead.”
Sirisak Tiyaphan, director for international affairs at the OAG, said once the office received the US request from the ministry, processing by the OAG and the court should take only one day. The extradition of the 43-year-old Russian could then proceed.
“When the request is submitted and the court approves it, the extradition of Mr Bout can then begin immediately under the Appeal Court’s order last week,” Mr Sirisak said.
Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said Thailand would not be influenced by outside pressure on the issue.
“The government will not put our country at risk to play a game of international politics. There is no benefit for our country in gambling with the fate of just one man,” he said.
“We are acting in accordance with the law and no one can tell us to speed up the extradition, no matter if five or 10 aircraft are parked there. Thailand is not a country under anyone’s mandate. We have our sovereignty.”
Mr Bout’s lawyer, Lak Nittiwattanawichan, said the process of withdrawing the new charges against Mr Bout was not a simple task as his client would also be asked by the court whether or not he consents to the withdrawal.
However legal sources said any decision by a panel of judges to drop the charges was irreversible.
Mr Lak also threatened to sue the Thai authorities involved in approving the extradition of Mr Bout while legal procedures on the new charges were still continuing.
Mr Bout was visited yesterday by his wife Alla, who criticised the extradition order. “I am worried because I am losing my husband. I do not know for how many years, maybe for all my life,” she said outside Bang Kwang prison.
“It is a purely human thing. He means a lot to me because he is my life. I am not interested in other questions because I know my husband is right, and I don’t know how long this show trial, this kangaroo court, will last in America.”
US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said on Tuesday: “We look forward to seeing him in a US court.”
Moscow has voiced “extreme disappointment” at the planned extradition, saying the decision was politically motivated.
Mr Bout faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted in the US on charges including conspiracy to kill US nationals and to provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organisation.
Mr Bout rejects the charges and says that he ran a legitimate air cargo business.
source : http://www.bangkokpost.com