Bosnian court trims sentence for U.S. embassy gunman to 15 years

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 20, 2013 11:44 AM

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - A Bosnian appeals court on Wednesday trimmed the prison sentence given to an Islamist gunman after he apologized for opening fire on the U.S. embassy in Sarajevo in 2011, seriously wounding a police officer.

The court cut Mevlid Jasarevic's sentence from 18 years to 15, citing mitigating circumstances such as the fact that he was not part of a criminal group.

Jasarevic, being re-tried for the attack, had last week apologized for firing on the embassy for more than 40 minutes, calling it a "stupid act". He appeared in court clean-shaven and wearing a white shirt and jeans, instead of with the long Islamist beard and traditional robe and skullcap he had before.

The attack by Jasarevic, a Muslim originally from neighboring Serbia who recently said he had distanced himself from the strict Wahhabi form of Islam, had revived debate over the threat of radical Islam in the Balkans.

Most Bosnian Muslims practice a moderate form of Islam. Analysts say, however, that recent years have seen a rise in the number of home-grown Islamist militants, many raised abroad and radicalized to fight for global causes unrelated to Bosnia.

Jasarevic was a member of the Wahhabi branch of Islam, which gained a foothold in Bosnia after its 1992-95 war. He had lived for three years in an isolated community of Wahhabi adherents in the northeastern village of Gornja Maoca.

His previous conviction was overturned in July after judges ruled the original trial was flawed. Defense lawyers had argued they did not have access to witness testimony and evidence.

Sentencing him on Wednesday, the court said the new verdict was an "adequate reflection of the severity of the criminal act and the convict's responsibility".

"The panel has delivered the verdict with the conviction that it will send out a clear message ... that the state of Bosnia-Herzegovina is determined to root out terrorism and protect equally foreign and local citizens," presiding Judge Hilmo Vucinic said.

(Reporting by Maja Zuvela; Editing by Matt Robinson and Mark Heinrich)