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News 20 Jun 14

Bosnia Investigative Agency Chief’s Protest Charge Confirmed

Goran Zubac, the director of the State Investigation and Protection Agency, was indicted for failing to protect the presidency building which was torched during protest unrest in February.

Denis Dzidic
BIRN
Sarajevo

The Bosnian state court said on Friday that it had confirmed the indictment of Zubac, the first official to be charged for not preventing protesters from setting fire to government buildings during the unrest, but declined to give any further information.

It is believed that Zubac has been charged with official negligence, a charge which carries a potential punishment of up to ten years. 

Kristina Jozic, a spokesperson for the State Investigation and Protection Agency, SIPA, refused to answer whether Zubac would be temporarily suspended from office during the criminal proceedings. 

The charging of Zubac is part of a protracted battle between the head of SIPA and the Bosnian state prosecution. 

In July last year, without getting approval from the prosecution, SIPA arrested Bosniak lawmaker Semsudin Mehmedovic on suspicion of involvement in war crimes against Serb civilians.

After the arrest, SIPA accused the prosecutor’s office and chief prosecutor Goran Salihovic of obstructing its investigation.

“We had obstructions from the state prosecution throughout this investigation. We did not have the support of Salihovic, nor his predecessors,” said SIPA spokesperson Jozic.

She said that SIPA was not given approval by the Bosnian prosecution to search certain locations, adding this was the first time that permission was not granted “in the history of war crimes investigations”.

But Mehmedovic’s legal advisor Senka Nozica told BIRN at the time that she believed that the arrest was motivated by the fact that Mehmedovic was due to give a statement to the Bosnian prosecution about Zubac concerning alleged war crimes against Bosniaks in Ilidza, near Sarajevo.

After the confirmation of the indictment, Zubac will make his plea within 15 days and the trial should start within two months.

The nationwide protests over poverty, corruption and unemployment started in the northern town of Tuzla on February 5, when hundreds of redundant workers from several large companies which had been privatized and shut down took to the streets.

The protests then spread and turned violent, and official buildings were burned in Tuzla, Zenica, Mostar and Sarajevo. Four prime ministers of cantons in Bosnia's Federation entity subsequently resigned.

Two other men are also being prosecuted on terrorism charges over the unrest. Salem Hatibovic and Nihad Trnka are accused of setting fire to the Bosnian presidency building on February 7.

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Background

The ‘Bosnian Spring’ Starts With a Bang

The Bosnian protests are the result of years of corruption, economic decay and in-fighting among ethno-political elites, but it is far from certain that they can bring real change.