A US federal appeals court on Friday upheld the conviction of Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for conspiring to kill Americans.
The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York rejected Bout's contentions that he had been the victim of a vindictive prosecution and that there was no legitimate law enforcement reason to target him.
But a three-judge appeals court panel said the government had been motivated to pursue Bout amid "widespread concern" that he was engaged in criminal conduct, having been on many US and United Nations sanctions lists for several years.
"The government's enthusiastic or energetic pursuit of Bout, a high-priority criminal target, does not demonstrate vindictive, or even inappropriate, government conduct," Circuit Judge Jose Cabranes wrote for the unanimous panel. Albert Dayan, a lawyer for Bout, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Bout has been serving a 25-year prison sentence following his 2011 conviction, which stemmed from an international sting operations four years earlier.
He was convicted of conspiracy for having agreed to sell arms to US Drug Enforcement Administration informants, who he believed were members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) who intended to kill US soldiers.
The US government has designated FARC a foreign terrorist organization. Bout's case caused strain in relations between Washington and Moscow, which has demanded the return of the onetime Soviet air force officer.
The case is US v. Bout, 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 12-1487.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Doina Chiacu)