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US Seeks Denaturalization of 2 Convicted Bosnian Muslim War Criminals


FILE - United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington.
FILE - United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington.

The U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday filed denaturalization papers against two Bosnian Muslims convicted of carrying out an execution-style massacre of Croatian villagers during the Balkan wars.

Edin Dzeko, 46, and Sammy Rasema Yetisen, 45, both alleged former members of an elite Bosnian military unit responsible for carrying out the 1993 attack that killed 22 civilians, are accused of hiding their crimes on their refugee, permanent resident and U.S. citizenship applications.

Yetisen, who also goes by Rasema Handanovic, came to the U.S. as a refugee three years after the massacre and became a citizen in 2002, according to court filings. Dzeko was admitted as a refugee in 2001 and naturalized in 2006.

The pair's involvement in the "Trusina massacre" came to light in 2011 when the U.S. extradited them to Bosnia to stand trial for war crimes, the Justice Department said.

A court in Bosnia later found that Dzeko and Yetisen were part of a special forces unit that participated "in a well-prepared and planned attack" on the village of Trusina in central Bosnia, executing six unarmed prisoners of war and civilians, according to court documents. Yetisen later shot each of the six again to make sure they were dead.

"In addition to his participation in the firing squad, Dzeko also killed a crippled elderly man, and then shot the man's wife in the back, killing her because she would not stop crying," the Justice Department said.

Yetisen was convicted of war crimes in 2012 and sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison. She returned to Oregon after her release from prison, the Justice Department said.

Dzeko was convicted and sentenced in 2014. He is still serving his sentence in Bosnia.

"War criminals will find no safe haven or shelter within the United States," U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. "We will be steadfast as we investigate and prosecute human rights violators, torturers, and war criminals. This is especially true for those who fraudulently obtain U.S. citizenship."

Other cases

The Justice Department has stepped up the pace of denaturalization lawsuits under the Trump administration.

In March, a Bosnian Serb living in North Carolina was sentenced to 18 months in prison for lying about his military service and involvement in war crimes on his permanent resident application.

Milan Trisic, 55, admitted that he'd served in the army of the Serb Republic between 1992 and 1996 as a member of a unit responsible for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre and that he lied about his whereabouts during the war when he applied for refugee admission to the U.S.

In February, the Justice Department filed denaturalization lawsuits against five convicted child abusers in California, Maryland, North Carolina and Texas.

"We at [the Department of Homeland Security] are committed to working with our partners across the federal government to target those who seek to break our immigration laws to obtain U.S. citizenship. There will be consequences," DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement.