Ex-Bosnian guard extradited to face war-crimes charges

AP News
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Posted: Jul 07, 2015 5:06 PM

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A former Bosnian prison camp guard living in the U.S. has been extradited to his native country to face war-crimes charges, including that he beat civilian detainees with a baton and a rifle and forced some detainees to crawl on the ground naked and eat grass where others had urinated.

Almaz Nezirovic, 54, of Roanoke County was extradited last week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a news release Tuesday.

Nezirovic came to the U.S. in 1997. He is accused of torturing Serbians at the Rabic prison camp in 1992 during the civil war in the region of the former Yugoslavia now known as Bosnia-Herzegovina. Bosnian officials allege that Nezirovic beat, humiliated and traumatized unarmed civilian prisoners.

"This extradition marks the culmination of years of legal effort to have Mr. Nezirovic properly face trial for the horrible acts of abuse he is charged with committing against civilian victims while he was a prison guard in Bosnia, despite the fact that he later left that country," said Anthony P. Giorno, the acting U.S. attorney for the western district of Virginia.

In 2013, a federal magistrate found sufficient evidence supporting the allegations and certified Nezirovic as eligible for extradition, pending approval of the U.S. State Department. A district judge let that ruling stand.

A federal appeals court in February rejected Nezirovic's claim that his extradition is barred because of the political nature of his actions at the prison. The court said the torture of civilians is not a political exercise.

A judge in Bosnia-Herzegovina issued a warrant for Nezirovic's arrest in 2003.

According to court papers, in 1992 Nezirovic joined the Croatian Defense Council, a paramilitary group also known by its Croatian acronym HVO, and became a prison guard. The HVO was formed by the Bosnian Croats as they sought to form their own breakaway republic during the war. It had no ties with Bosnia's Muslim-dominated government.

In addition to the war-crimes charges, Nezirovic was charged in federal court with concealing his wartime activities when applying for refugee status and naturalization in the United States, ICE said. That case was dropped last year because of Nezirovic's extradition case.