Utica man faces war crimes charge in Bosnia
UTICA (AP) - A New York man was extradited to his native Bosnia-Herzegovina to be tried for war crimes committed in the 1990s, including the torture of one prisoner and the slaying of another, federal officials said Monday.
Sulejman Mujagic’s extradition was the result of close cooperation between U.S. and Bosnian authorities to bring alleged perpetrators of war crimes to justice, said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman.
Mujagic, a 50-year-old former regional army commander, was arrested in November in Utica, where he had been living since 1997. He’s accused of killing an unarmed enemy soldier and torturing another during the Bosnian War in March 1995.
Mujagic was fighting for the Army of the Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia, a region that had seceded from the central government. Court documents said a surviving prisoner of the 1995 battle and other soldiers on the scene told investigators that Mujagic and some of his men kicked prisoners and beat them with rifle stocks as they demanded information.
The documents said Mujagic asked Ekrem Baltic the name of his commander, and when Baltic said he didn’t know, Mujagic allegedly fired a fatal burst from his AK-47 into the prisoner’s chest. Then he allegedly told Nisvet Cordic he would also be killed if he didn’t identify the commander.
The documents said Mujagic’s men beat Cordic to the ground and ordered him to stand back up. Mujagic allegedly opened fire at the ground near the prisoner’s feet and one of the bullets hit Cordic in the leg. Mujagic and his men allegedly continued to beat Cordic and fired more shots at him, wounding him in the thigh and back.
Randi Bianco, an attorney in the federal public defender’s office in Syracuse, said at a detention hearing in December that Mujagic denied all charges and believes someone in Bosnia was tortured until they produced the allegations against him.
There are more than 4,500 Bosnians in Utica, one of the largest concentrations in the U.S.
Mujagic had lived above his variety store, Mixed Products. He obtained lawful permanent resident status in 2001 but does not retain U.S. citizenship, federal prosecutors said.