Judge: Croatian woman in Kentucky can be extradited on war crime charges
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A Croatian woman can be extradited to Bosnia to face war crimes charges after living for years in Kentucky, a federal judge has ruled.
Azra Basic has been battling her extradition in federal court since authorities arrested her in 2011. She is wanted in Bosnia on charges of committing war crimes against ethnic Serb civilians in 1992.
Her attorney filed court papers in 2012 saying Basic was being held in violation of her rights as a U.S. citizen and asking for her release after Magistrate Judge Robert Wier ruled international treaties allowed her to be returned to Europe.
U.S. District Judge Karen K. Caldwell denied that petition on Thursday, ruling the treaty cited for extradition is valid and applies to the case.
Basic's attorney, Patrick Nash, said he disagreed with the ruling.
"It's a lengthy opinion and I'm still in the process of studying it," he said Friday. "But we are definitely going to appeal it."
The U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment on the ruling.
More than 100,000 people were killed during the bloody war that followed Yugoslavia's collapse, most of them Muslim Bosnians. The war was fought among the country's three ethnic groups — Muslim Bosnians, Catholic Croats and Christian Orthodox Serbs.
In statements provided by U.S. prosecutors, witnesses identified Basic as a soldier in the Croatian army and said she killed one prisoner and tortured others by forcing them to drink human blood and gasoline and having them kneel on broken glass. Wier ruled that the evidence was "highly convincing."
Nash has said Basic denies that she committed war crimes. He said the only violence she committed was as an active soldier in battle during the conflict.
Basic argued in her petition that the treaty cited by Wier in his ruling prohibits the extradition of U.S. citizens. She also argued that there has been no valid arrest warrant issued, that Bosnian authorities waited too long to bring charges and that some of the plaintiffs in the case are soldiers, not civilians.
Caldwell ruled that U.S. citizens can be extradited because both governments recognize the treaty Weir cited. She also ruled that Bosnia officials produced the "judicial equivalent to an arrest warrant," that there is no statute of limitations on the alleged crimes and that there was evidence supporting the possibility that the victims were civilians.
When she was arrested, Basic was living in Stanton, a town about 45 miles east of Lexington known for its annual corn festival.
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