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Bosnian MP Faces Probe By Council Of Europe Amid Bribery Claims

Bosnian member of parliament Milica Markovic (center)
Bosnian member of parliament Milica Markovic (center)

Bosnia-Herzegovina's Foreign Ministry says that parliament member Milica Markovic is under investigation over suspicions of corruption in connection with reports she authored on Armenia and Azerbaijan for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

The ministry issued a statement on January 23 saying PACE had formed a commission with a mandate "to gather necessary documentation and needed information related to the possible corruptive actions" of three of its members, one of whom the statement said is Markovic, who is a member of Bosnia's delegation at PACE.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina expresses regret because one of the MPs of the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe from Bosnia and Herzegovina is the subject of allegations of corruptive actions," the statement said.

"Presumption Of Innocence'

"The ministry considers it very important to respect the principle of the presumption of innocence and expresses hope that the work of the commission will show that the MPs from Bosnia and Herzegovina, as members of this important Council of Europe body, didn’t take part in illegal activities," it added.

A PACE spokesman confirmed to RFE/RL that it was carrying out "a detailed, independent inquiry into allegations of corruption and the fostering of interests made against certain PACE members or former members," but gave no further details.

The investigation stems from a report about a reservoir in the Sarsang region of Azerbaijan's breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region, which is under the control of ethnic Armenians.

The report, approved by the PACE Committee on in January 2016, states that "inhabitants of frontier regions of Azerbaijan are deliberately deprived of water."

Armenian and Bosnian media reports have alleged that Markovic was taking bribes to influence her reporting in favor of Azerbaijan.

Obstruction Claim

Markovic has denied the allegations and says that the Armenian side refused to fully cooperate in the report.

"This charge was made by the Armenian delegation because they were not satisfied with the report," Markovic, who is a member of the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, the ruling party in the Serb-dominated entity, Republika Srpska, told RFE/RL’s Balkan Service.

"They were not satisfied because they obstructed me and the overall activities of the Social Affairs Committee, who appointed me as a rapporteur on this issue," she added.

The investigative body, which the Foreign Ministry statement said has significant power and a special budget and whose work is independent of the Committee of Ministers and PACE, should submit its first report by April 15.

Azerbaijan and Armenia have been locked in a conflict over Azerbaijan’s breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh for decades.

Nagorno-Karabakh, populated mainly by ethnic Armenians, declared independence from Azerbaijan during a 1988-94 war that claimed an estimated 30,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

Three decades of diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving the conflict have brought little progress.

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