Croatian woman who lived in Kentucky is sentenced to 14 years for war crimes
By BILL ESTEP | Lexington Herald-Leader | Published: December 27, 2017
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Tribune News Service) — A Croatian woman who tried to build a new life in Kentucky but was accused of war crimes in her old life has been sentenced to 14 years in prison in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
A court convicted Azra Basic of committing crimes against Serbs during the vicious civil war in Bosnia that lasted from 1992 to 1995, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.
The court ruled that Basic, who fought with the Croatian and Bosnian Croat armies, took part in “killing and inhumane treatment, infliction of great pain and violation of bodily integrity and health” of imprisoned civilians, according to the AP.
Basic, a Muslim Croatian, came to the United States as a refugee in 1994. She eventually settled in Kentucky and became a naturalized citizen in 2007.
She lived at times in Lexington or Jessamine County and worked various jobs, including at nursing homes, according to court records.
She was living in Powell County and working at the Nestle plant in Mount Sterling when federal marshals arrested her in 2011.
A court in what is now known as Bosnia-Herzegovina had charged her with war crimes earlier, but it took authorities several years to find her.
The civil war in Bosnia broke out when the Communist country of Yugoslavia broke apart. The war involved ethnic Serbs, Croats and Muslims.
Bosnian authorities charged that Basic murdered one civilian and tortured three others in 1992.
Witnesses said she took part in horrific conduct, including killing one man by stabbing him in the throat and forcing other prisoners to drink his blood, and forcing prisoners to crawl over glass.
Basic fought efforts to extradite her to Bosnia-Herzegovina to face the charges. Her case was heard in U.S. District Court in Lexington.
U.S. District Judge Karen K. Caldwell said in one ruling that Serbian forces engaged in ethnic cleansing, terrorizing non-Serb civilians to try to drive them out.
Those who stayed were subject to torture, rape, mutilation and murder by Serb forces. However, some victims later adopted similar tactics, Caldwell said.
Basic’s attorney, Patrick Nash, said in a court document that after being subjected to atrocities in a Serbian prison camp, Basic joined Croatian military forces.
Nash said Basic contended she only took part in regular military actions against soldiers, and was not involved in war crimes against soldiers or civilians.
Caldwell said evidence was mixed on whether the people Basic is accused of attacking were soldiers.
However, the judge ruled there was sufficient evidence to find that Basic took part in crimes against civilians and that she could be extradited to face trial.
A federal appeals panel upheld Caldwell’s ruling and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a further appeal, clearing the way for Basic to be sent to Bosnia-Herzegovina for trial.
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