BANGKOK - Thai prosecutors started appeal proceedings on Thursday against a court's rejection of a U.S. request for the extradition of suspected Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
The United States wants to try Bout, dubbed the Merchant of Death, on terror charges related to suspected plans to sell arms to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC).
The decision means Bout, who was arrested in Bangkok in March last year in a Thai-U.S. sting operation, will remain in prison until the Appeal Court decides whether or not to accept the case. If it decides against, he will be released.
The court received our intention to appeal today. Now we've got 30 days to formally submit our case, Thai prosecutor Sophon Kasempiboonchai told Reuters.
The judge ruled on Tuesday that Thailand could not extradite Bout because the charges were not applicable under its laws. He said the case was political and, unlike the United States, Thailand did not recognize the FARC as a terrorist group.
The United States expressed disappointment at the ruling and said the charges were relevant and in accordance with an existing extradition treaty with Thailand. Russia said it was satisfied with the decision and hoped Bout would be freed soon.
U.S. prosecutors say Bout had been trafficking arms since the 1990s, using a fleet of cargo planes to deliver weapons to fuel conflicts in Africa, South America and the Middle East.
According to the U.S. indictment, Bout told undercover agents he could supply them with 700 to 800 surface-to-air missiles, 5,000 AK-47 assault rifles, millions of rounds of ammunition, C-4 explosives, land mines and unmanned aerial drones.
(Reporting by Kittipong Soonprasert; Editing by Martin Petty)