A US appeals court has upheld the conviction of Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for conspiring to kill Americans.
The court rejected on Friday the argument that Bout, who was the subject of the book Merchant of Death and inspiration for Nicolas Cage's character in the 2005 movie Lord of War, was a victim of a "vindictive" prosecution, including the international sting that led to his capture.
In a case that strained relations between Washington and Moscow, the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said the US government was motivated to pursue Bout by "widespread concern" that he was engaged in criminal activity, reflected by his inclusion in numerous US and UN sanctions lists for years.
Circuit Judge Jose Cabranes wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel that they rejected Bout's contention that his 2010 extradition from Thailand to face the US charges was the illegal result of "intense, coercive political pressure" by the United States, which he said had no reason to target him.
"The government's enthusiastic or energetic pursuit of Bout, a high-priority criminal target, does not demonstrate vindictive, or even inappropriate, government conduct," Cabranes wrote.
Conspiring to kill
Albert Dayan, a lawyer for Bout, 46, said he planned to ask the entire court to overturn the panel decision.
A spokeswoman for US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, whose office handled the prosecution, declined to comment.
Bout is serving a 25-year prison sentence after a Manhattan federal jury convicted him on four conspiracy counts in November 2011, following a three-week trial.
US District Judge Shira Scheindlin imposed the prison term in April 2012.
Jurors convicted Bout of conspiring to kill US soldiers and other citizens by having agreed to sell arms to US Drug Enforcement Administration informants who had been posing as members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
The US government has designated FARC as a foreign terrorist organisation.