Federal judge rules alleged war criminal can be extradited back to Bosnia
A Stanton woman who was arrested and accused of war crimes has been cleared by a federal judge to be extradited back to Bosnia. Azra Basic, who has been accused of various horrendous acts during the Bosnia Civil War in the 1990’s, has been in federal custody since her arrest at her home on Boone Creek Road in March, 2011.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert E. Weir ruled last week in the Federal Court in Lexington that Basic could be returned to Bosnia-Herzegovina to face charges that she murdered and tortured people during bloody ethnic fighting there. Weir stated that there were treaties in place that allowed for her to be extradited back to Europe.
However, her attorney, Patrick Nash of Lexington, has stated that he will appeal the decision. Nash said he planned to ask the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to review the case. Nash also stated that he believed that the courts would not allow Basic to be extradited while the appeal was underway because that would take her out of the court’s jurisdiction.
The defense has fought extradition on a number of grounds. Basic has claimed that some of the plaintiffs were soldiers and not civilians. She also said Bosnian prosecutors waited too long to bring the charges against her. However, Weir disagreed and ruled that Bosnia was ready to proceed with a trial against Basic.
Basic, who was born in Croatia, has lived in Kentucky since 2004. Powell County has been her home for at least the last three years, though just how long is not quite clear. She once lived on Pecks Creek before moving into her Boone Creek home last year.
Basic was arrested on an international warrant and has been alleged to have committed war crimes during the Bosnian Civil War from 1992 through 1995. Documents related to the warrant stated that Basic was wanted Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities for war crimes she alleged committed against civilians. She reportedly was a commander in a Croatian army brigade.
Reports indicate that the warrant and court documents list several witnesses to the alleged criminal acts. They range from Basic being accused of torturing ethnic Serbs at a prison camp in June of 1992.
The witness’s accounts are disturbing. Reports of pulling people’s fingernails out with pliers, having prisoners crawl around on floors covered with glass and using a rope with knots in it to pull out teeth were just some of the alleged crimes against the prisoners. One witness stated he was forced to drink gasoline, was beaten unconscious and had his hands and feet set on fire. Another claimed they were forced to swallow a handful of salt, eat Yugoslavia paper currency, was kicked by boots, hit with metal bars and weapons.
The worst claim against Basic came from two witnesses who state that after a prisoner, Blagoje Djuras, was beaten unconscious by other guards Basic then killed him by slitting his throat. One of the witnesses’ then claimed that after the murder Basic grabbed other prisoners by the hair of the head and dragged them over to the body. They claimed they were forced to drink blood from the wound.
When she was arrested Basic seemed to have adjusted to small city life in Kentucky. Neighbors told news agencies that she worked, kept to herself but was friendly. Court records indicate she worked at the Nestle factory in Mount Sterling. She also apparently used to work at the Stanton Nursing Center.
According to published reports and federal court documents the process to find Basic began in 1993 when after hearing witnesses and checking medical and forensic reports, she was identified as the person wanted for the alleged crimes. That process took until 2001. International law enforcement agencies reported that they located Basic in eastern Kentucky in 2004, but the international warrant for her was not issued until 2006 The U.S. was notified by both Bosnia and Herzegovina that they were requesting to officially extradite Basic back for trial in 2007. Records and reports indicate that the U.S. asked for more evidence in the case as it pertained to the alleged crimes. That was provided in February 2010.
Press reports indicate that more than 100,000 people were killed during the bloody war that followed Yugoslavia’s collapse; most of them were Muslim Bosnians. The war was fought among the country’s three ethnic groups, the Muslim Bosnians, Catholic Croats and Christian Orthodox Serbs. It was reported that most of war crimes were committed by Serbs during the civil war. The war included ethnic cleansing and attacks on civilian populations.