Hearing On Bout Extradition Postponed

APViktor Bout being lead to court on Monday by guards in Bangkok, Thailand.
BANGKOK, Thailand — A Thai court delayed reputed Russian arms smuggler Viktor Bout's extradition hearing to the United States for a second time after his new defense attorney failed to show up for the high-profile case Monday.

Bout, dubbed "The Merchant of Death," has been indicted in the United States on four terrorism charges. Though he denies any involvement in illicit activities, he is regarded as one of the world's most-wanted arms traffickers and was purportedly the model for the arms dealer portrayed by Nicolas Cage in the 2005 movie "Lord of War."

Barefoot and shackled, Bout was led into Bangkok's Criminal Court for a hearing that ended abruptly because his defense lawyer, whose name was not immediately available, was not present.

The lawyer "says he has another case. The court deems that it is necessary to postpone," Judge Jitakorn Patanasiri told the court. The judge initially set the new date as Aug. 22 but then corrected himself to say Sept. 22.

The hearing was delayed June 9 for the first time because Bout's other attorney, Lak Nitiwatanavichan, said he had heart problems. Lak, who is now serving as a legal adviser in the case, said Bout plans to fight the extradition.

"He's innocent. There are no grounds for his extradition," the lawyer said.

Bout, 41, faces charges of conspiring to kill U.S. nationals, conspiring to kill U.S. officers or employees, conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and conspiring to acquire and use an anti-aircraft missile, according to a U.S. indictment made public May 6. He faces a life sentence.

U.S. prosecutors say Bout was offering a deadly arsenal of weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, including more than 700 surface-to-air missiles, thousands of guns, high-tech helicopters and airplanes outfitted with grenade launchers and missiles. The United States classifies FARC as a terrorist organization.

The charges were based in part on a covertly recorded meeting in Thailand on March 6. Bout was arrested after a sting operation in which undercover U.S. agents posed as Colombian rebels.

Bout, who has been accused of breaking several UN arms embargoes, has a long list of alleged clients including African dictators and warlords such as former Liberian President Charles Taylor, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and both sides of the civil war in Angola.