saturday, 27 july 2013
Burlington Free Press (Vermont)
Jul. 26, 2013
Written by Mike Donoghue Free Press Staff Writer
An immigrant living in Burlington is facing federal charges for lying to immigration authorities by denying involvement in war crimes during the conflict in Bosnia two decades ago, according to U.S. District Court records.
Edin Sakoc, 54, committed war crimes against a civilian Bosnian Serb family 21 years ago, according to the two-count indictment unsealed Friday.
Sakoc, a Bosnian Muslim, is accused of raping a Serb woman in July 1992, aiding in the killing of two elderly people she was caring for and burning down the house they were staying in, court records show.
The three victims, after their home was destroyed by military fire, moved to live in the house of a nearby Bosnian Croat family in July 1992.
Sakoc and an unnamed co-conspirator removed one of the victims from the home against her will, the indictment said. It said Sakoc then assaulted and raped her before taking her to the Dretelji prison camp.
Later that night or early the next morning Sakoc and the co-conspirator returned to the home for the other two victims. The indictment said once inside the co-conspirator, “aided and abetted by Sakoc, shot and killed Victim-2 and victim-3.”
Sakoc and the co-conspirator then burned down the home and also took the bodies outside to burn them, the indictment said.
Authorities say Sakoc lied when he applied for refugee status in March 2001 and for permanent residence in the United States by denying any past crimes or persecution. He was allowed to enter the United States that month, court papers show.
He became a permanent legal resident about March 2004 after filing more paperwork, including answers denying any past crimes.
Sakoc applied in the district of Vermont to become a naturalized citizen of the United States in February 2007, the indictment said. He was required to file various forms and swear to their accuracy.
Among the papers was a federal form on which Sakoc was asked “questions related to past crimes he may have committed and whether he persecuted anyone. Sakoc denied committing any crimes or persecuting anyone,” the indictment said.
A U. S. Immigration Officer placed Sakoc under oath in June 2007 and questioned him about information on his application. “Sakoc denied committing any crimes,” the indictment said.
Sakoc became a naturalized citizen of the United States in September 2007.
If Sakoc is convicted on either criminal charge, he is subject to having his naturalization revoked, according to the indictment.
The indictment charges that Sakoc knowingly procured his own naturalization by providing false and fraudulent information and applying for naturalization when he was not entitled to receive it, the indictment said.
He is due for arraignment in U.S. District Court in Burlington late Friday afternoon. The court clerk’s office was securing a Bosnian interpreter for the hearing.
Three federal prosecutors involved in the case did not return phone calls to the Burlington Free Press seeking comments.
As of 3 p.m. the U.S. Attorney’s Office had not filed a motion seeking a hearing on whether to detain Sakoc pending trial, according to the court’s computer system.
Attempts by the Free Press to reach Sakoc’s assigned lawyer, Robert S. Behrensin Burlington, have been unsuccessful.