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U.S. Seeks To Revoke Citizenship Of Convicted Ex-Bosniak Soldiers

A memorial sits near the town of Trusina, site of a 1993 massacre.

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Justice Department has filed suit in federal court to revoke the naturalized U.S. citizenship of two Bosnian-born Muslims who allegedly concealed their involvement in war crimes during the wars of the early 1990s in the former Yugoslavia.

The suit accuses the two of murdering "civilians and prisoners” in Bosnia-Herzegovina and then fraudulently obtaining refugee status and eventual U.S. citizenship by "concealing their crimes."

The suit, made public on April 4, alleges that the 46-year-old Bosnian Muslim man and 45-year-old Muslim woman were part of an elite unit of the army of Bosnia-Herzegovina that attacked the village of Trusina on April 16, 1993.

It said the attack, which became known as the Trusina massacre, targeted Bosnian Croats who resided in the village “because of their Christian religion and Croat ethnicity.”

The suit says that altogether, attackers in the elite unit killed 22 unarmed people in Trusina, including women and the elderly.

The Justice Department identified the two as Edin Dzeko and Sammy Rasema Yetisen. Yetisen was also known as Rasema Handanovic and Zolja.

“Both were part of a firing squad that executed six unarmed prisoners of war and civilians, and Yetisen proceeded to make sure all six were dead by shooting them again,” the suit says.

It also says that Dzeko killed a crippled elderly man, and then shot dead the man’s wife in the back after she would not stop crying.

The Justice Department said that Dzeko and Yetisen subsequently fled to the United States where they "fraudulently obtained refugee status and later naturalized into U.S. citizenship."

“Each requested and received refugee status from the United States, claiming themselves to be victims of persecution,” the complaint says.

After allegations of their involvement in the killings came to light, Dzeko and Yetisen were extradited to their home country and were convicted in a Bosnian court for war crimes. Yetisen was the first woman convicted by a Bosnian court of war crimes.

Dzeko, who was convicted in 2014, remains in a Sarajevo prison where he is serving a 13-year sentence.

Yetisen, who pleaded guilty in 2012 and cooperated with authorities, testified against Dzeko. She was released after serving 5 1/2 years in a Bosnian prison and now resides in Oregon, according to the suit.

“War criminals will find no safe haven or shelter within the United States,” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.

Bosnia's war resulted in the death of an estimated 100,000 people and the displacement of some 2.6 million. Bosnian Muslims often were the victims of massacres and human rights violations.

As part of the 1995 Dayton accords, Bosnia was divided into two constituent states: a Muslim-Croat federation and the Serbian entity, Republika Srpska.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was established at The Hague in 1993 to prosecute crimes committed in the Balkan wars of the early 1990s.

It ceased operations in December 2017 after sentencing some 90 individuals -- including some top Bosnian Serb and Croat commanders -- for crimes against humanity, genocide, and other war crimes.

Many Serbs complained about the process, pointing to the fact that about 80 percent of all indictments were against Serbs.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Balkan Service
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