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5 November 2013
News

Bosniak Fighters Appeal Wartime Rape Convictions

Mirna Buljugic BIRN BiH Sarajevo
Ex-security officer Muhidin Basic and ex-military policeman Mirsad Sijak appealed against the seven-year sentences they were given for raping a Croat woman at a prison in Vares in 1994.
Defence lawyers for Basic and Sijak appealed against the verdict on Tuesday, demanding acquittals or a retrial, alleging that criminal procedures had been violated and the key witness who alleged she was raped by them had lied.

The state prosecution also appealed against the verdict, requesting longer prison sentences for the two men, stressing the brutality of the crime.

They were found guilty in January of raping the Croat woman in the town of Vares on January 25, 1994, when she came to visit her brother, a fighter with the Croatian Defence Council, who was being detained in makeshift jail at a forestry agency building. Two other people also took part in the attack.

At the time, Basic was chief of the state security service section in Olovo and Sijak was a military policeman in the Bosnian Army.

The prosecutor, Mirko Lecic, said that the original verdict failed to take into consideration aggravating circumstances.

“The rape was conducted together with another two persons unknown in a humiliating way, with everyone present in the room, watching each other,” Lecic said.

But Kerim Celik, Basic’s lawyer, alleged that the woman, who testified as a protected witness, lied in “90 per cent of her testimony”, because no one but her saw Basic in Vares on the day when the alleged rape took place.

“Look at the statements she gave earlier and the ones given before the court. The court relied on speculations and assumptions,” said Celik.

Basic also addressed the appeals court saying he would agree to a higher sentence if the court found anyone who could prove they saw him at the forestry agency building that day.

“I was convicted based on a false report. I was convicted unjustly,” said Basic.

He said that after the indictment was filed against him, someone wrote the words “war criminal” on his house, and later someone tried to kill him.

“A man threw me on the bonnet of his car and then on the roof. I was all broken up and ended up in a hospital,” said Basic.

Fahrija Karkin, lawyer for the second defendant Sijak, argued that a Bosnian Army military log showed that his client was not in Vares that day.

Sijak also addressed the appeals court, insisting tthat no one could have entered the forestry agency building without the correct ID document.

“My family is in ruins, I am not working. I am discarded by the state as unsuitable, and all of it because of lies,” Sijak said.

The court will rule on the appeals at a later date.
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