A Bosnian-Serb living in the US accused of serving in a paramilitary unit that participated in the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica will be deported from the US. He said he looks forward to returning to Bosnia.
Oliver Dragic pleaded guilty on Thursday before US District Judge Dan Aaron Polster to possessing and using fraudulently obtained immigration documents. He was sentenced to time served in jail since his arrest in August 2016.
Dragic denied he or his police unit had been involved in massacres or war crimes near Srebrenica in 1995.
During the 1992-95 Bosnian War, 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed by Bosnian Serb troops under the command of former General Ratko Mladic at Srebrenica in July 1995, the worst mass killing on European soil since World War Two.
Justin Herdman, the Cleveland-based attorney for the northern half of Ohio, said Dragic had claimed to be a refugee but served in a paramilitary force during the war in the former Yugoslavia.
He applied for refugee status in the US in 1998, saying he had been a victim of the war in Bosnia and said he had fled the country in 1992, the indictment said.
He had been living in Barberton, in suburban Akron after being granted permanent resident status in 2001.
The vetting of refugees has moved center stage politically since Republican President Donald Trump came into office with a goal of cutting refugee admissions and enforcing stricter background checks.
Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic (R) listening to Bosnian Serb Commander Ratko Mladic during a meeting in Pale, Bosnia & Herzegovina in 1993
Bosnian crimes and misdemeanors
The 42-year-old moved to Serbian-controlled Bosnia in 1994 after graduating from a police training school, according to the indictment. His unit was involved in combat, "including during the broader Srebrenica operations," it read.
The Republic of Serbia leadership targeted Muslims in the early and mid-1990s in attempting to create an ethnically pure Serbia. Over 100,000 people died in the conflict from 1992 to 1995, most of them victims of Bosnian-Serb attacks.
The US government alleged that Dragic's paramilitary police unit was deployed around Srebrenica to find survivors and prevent their escape.
Dragic not the first
Dragic is the latest of several men in northern Ohio who prosecutors have charged in recent years with concealing their involvement in the Bosnian war to enter the United States.
Ilija Josipovic, 59, was charged in 2016 with two counts of possession of immigration documents procured by fraud. Prosecutors said he had failed to disclose his service in the Zvornik Infantry Brigade in 2002 when applying for refugee status in the US.
Josipovic was the third person in the Akron area that federal prosecutors charged with lying about their involvement in the Bosnian war to enter the US. Slobodan Mutic, a foundry worker, was sentenced in January 2016 to two years in federal prison for lying on forms to obtain US refugee status.
"He looks forward to re-establishing life for himself and mother in his home country of Bosnia," the lawyer representing Dragic,
Darin Thompson, said, adding he did not know if Dragic would face repercussions once returned to Bosnia.
jbh/sms (AP, Reuters)