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Thai dealer

Bangkok, Aug. 20 (Reuters): A Thai appeals court ruled today to extradite suspected Russian arms smuggler Viktor Bout to the US to face terrorism charges following two years of diplomatic pressure from Washington.

Nicknamed “Merchant of Death” and the inspiration for Hollywood movie Lord of War starring Nicolas Cage, the 43-year-old Bout faces US accusations of trafficking arms since the 1990s to dictators and conflict zones in Africa, South America and West Asia.

He has been held in a Thai maximum-security prison since his arrest in March 2008 during a joint US-Thai sting operation in which agents posed as arms buyers for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

The court overturned a 2009 lower court decision that did not recognise the FARC as terrorists.

Bout’s wife, Alla, accused the Thai authorities of succumbing to pressure from key ally the US. “This is a result of constant pressure from the US government,” she said.

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