A defiant Russian arms dealer dubbed the Merchant of Death for his history of arming violent dictators and regimes was sentenced today to 25 years in prison, far short of the life term prosecutors sought for his conviction on terrorism charges that grew from a US sting operation. Viktor Bout's sentence was the mandatory minimum he faced, though federal sentencing guidelines had called for life in prison. In court, Bout interrupted a prosecutor who said he agreed to sell weapons to kill Americans, shouting in English: "It's a lie!"
The sentencing came four years after Bout's arrest in Thailand, where he was held before his extradition to the US for trial in late 2010. The government had portrayed Bout, the inspiration for an arms dealer character played by Nicolas Cage in the 2005 film Lord of War, as one of the world's worst villains, capable of empowering dictators in war-torn countries by supplying weapons that they could turn on their own people. The defense had countered that Bout was a political prisoner, a victim of a sting operation. (Read more Viktor Bout stories.)