Bosnian immigrants plead not guilty in terror financing case

AP News
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Posted: Feb 11, 2015 7:23 PM
Bosnian immigrants plead not guilty in terror financing case

ST. LOUIS (AP) — An immigrant couple from Bosnia pleaded not guilty Wednesday to federal charges of funneling money and military supplies to extremist groups in Iraq and Syria.

Attorneys for Ramiz Zijad Hodzic and Sedina Unkic Hodzic of St. Louis County entered pleas for them separately during a brief hearing in U.S. District Court in St. Louis. The defendants, who did not speak in court, remain in federal custody.

A federal magistrate judge postponed until next week hearings for each to determine if they will remain jailed while awaiting trial. The delay came at the request of their attorneys, who said they needed more time to prepare.

Ramiz Hodzic, 40, and his wife, 35, are among six Bosnian immigrants living in Missouri, Illinois and New York who were charged last week with conspiring to provide material support to groups the U.S. deems terrorist organizations, including Islamic State and Nusra Front, an al-Qaida-affiliated rebel group.

The couple is accused of using Facebook, PayPal, Western Union and the U.S. Postal Service to coordinate shipments of money and military equipment to the groups with the help of Abdullah Ramo Pazara, a Bosnian immigrant who left St. Louis in May 2013 to fight in Syria, where authorities say he later died.

Each of the six suspects is now in federal custody after Jasminka Ramic, 42, of Rockford, Illinois, was arrested Tuesday in Germany, according to online federal court records. No lawyer was listed for her.

Bosnian community leaders in St. Louis, which has the largest population among U.S. cities of refugees from the former Yugoslavia, say the arrests of the Hodzics and a third local resident, 37-year-old Armin Harcevic, tarnishes a community whose members have worked tirelessly to embrace their adopted homeland. Most of the estimated 70,000 Bosnians in St. Louis are Muslim and arrived after the war that broke out in the early 1990s.

The Islamic Community of North American Bosniaks affirmed its members' faith in the U.S. justice system in a statement issued Sunday and said it rejected "hatred or any kind of injustice to another human being."

"They are Bosnian, but they are not part of the real Bosnian community, said community leader Rusmin Topalovic, who owns a St. Louis cleaning company.

Ramiz Hodzic, who also goes by the first name Siki and worked as truck driver, is charged with making 10 wire transfers totaling $8,850 and arranging two shipments of military supplies valued at $2,451, according to a federal indictment unsealed on Feb. 6. His wife, a mother of three, including a 20-month-old, is accused of aiding one of those transfers and also shipping six boxes of military supplies to an intermediary in Turkey.

The other defendants are Nihad Rosic, 26, of Utica, New York, and Mediha Medy Salkicevic, a 34-year-old mother of four from Schiller Park, Illinois. Ramiz Hodzic and Rosic are also charged with conspiring to kill and maim persons abroad, with Rosic accused of trying to board a Norwegian Airlines flight in New York in July, with plans to travel to Syria to fight alongside Pazara and others.

On Tuesday, a federal judge in Chicago refused to release Salkicevic, who's accused of providing three payments totaling $3,762. She will remain in custody and be escorted by federal marshals to St. Louis, rather than travel there on her own.

Federal prosecutors in St. Louis said Wednesday that some of the electronic surveillance evidence against the Hodzics falls under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and may not be publicly presented — or even provided to defense lawyers.

Paul D'Agrosa, who represents Sedina Hodzic, said after the hearing that "there's more than meets the eye in this case" and cautioned the public against "making assumptions."

"There's a husband and wife here," he added. "There's always a dynamic there that ought to be considered."

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Associated Press writers Michael Tarm in Chicago and Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City, Missouri contributed to this report.

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