News 19 Jul 13

Bosnian MP Arrested Over War Crimes

Bosniak lawmaker Semsudin Mehmedovic was arrested on suspicion of involvement in war crimes against Serb civilians, but his lawyer claimed that investigators were trying to silence him.

Denis Dzidic and Marija Tausan

The Bosnian State Investigation and Protection Agency, SIPA, arrested former policeman turned MP Mehmedovic early on Friday morning in connection with allegations that officers he controlled during wartime abused civilian prisoners in the town of Tesanj in central Bosnia in 1992 and 1993.

“SIPA has gathered evidence that members of the police station in Tesanj, under the command of the arrested, who was the police chief, illegally arrested and detained Bosnian Serb civilians,” said SIPA spokesperson Kristina Jozic.

“They were questioned with physical and mental abuse, while some were forced to admit crimes, because of which they were sentenced to up to 12 years in prison,” she said.

SIPA also accused the Bosnian 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 chief prosecutor Goran Salihovic, nor his predecessors since 2009, when the investigation first opened,” said Jozic.

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

“SIPA recommended that the suspect be ordered into custody… We have gathered evidence about threats to witnesses and SIPA officers, which is why we have filed a criminal report over the obstruction of the work of judicial institutions,” Jozic said.

She also said that SIPA officers had uncovered “hit lists of certain people” during the probe, but offered no further explanation.

But Mehmedovic’s legal advisor Senka Nozica told BIRN that she believed that the arrest was motivated by the fact that Mehmedovic was due to give a statement to the Bosnian prosecution on Friday about SIPA’s director, Goran Zubac.

“Mehmedovic was supposed to testify this morning in an investigation against Zubac,” Nozica said.

She suggested that the investigation into Zubac could concern alleged war crimes against Bosniaks in Ilidza, near Sarajevo.

SIPA declined to comment on her allegations.

The Bosnian state prosecution meanwhile confirmed that the arrest of Mehmedovic was not carried out with its approval.

“The prosecution is undertaking an investigation in this case but further steps will only depend on the quality of evidence,” said spokesperson Boris Grubesic in a written statement.

Grubesic did not respond directly to the allegations that the prosecutor had obstructed the investigation but instead hinted that he believed that the claims had political motivations.

“We are a judicial institution and we work by the law. The prosecutor’s office of Bosnia and Herzegovina does not wish to and will not be a subject of the squabbles of political and other officials,” he said.

Besides Mehmedovic, SIPA has filed criminal reports about three other people connected to the investigation, naming them only by the initials ‘S.D.’, ‘P.B.’ and ‘A.A.’

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