Las Vegas grocer accused of war crimes

Las Vegas grocer accused of war crimes

A man accused of commanding a police squad that rounded up Bosnian Muslims for slaughter in 1995 made a new life in Las Vegas as a modest grocery shop owner before being arrested and deported to his native country, US officials said.

Dejan Radojkovic, 61, arrived in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, after an overnight commercial flight from Las Vegas accompanied by federal agents, Bosnian authorities and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

Radojkovic's lawyer in Las Vegas, Don Chairez, denied any evidence linked the permanent US resident and father of two - with the execution of Muslim boys and men in an event considered Europe's bloodiest mass killing since the Second World War.

"He is not a war criminal," Mr Chairez said. "There is no evidence that Mr Radojkovic ever killed anybody."

Prosecutors say Radojkovic commanded a special police brigade that rounded up about 200 Muslim men in July 1995 in the Konjevic Polje region for execution.

Mr Chairez said Radojkovic's national guard unit accepted the surrender of about 200 enemy soldiers and turned them over to Bosnian Serb forces, but Radojkovic did not know the men would be killed.

Radojkovic was arrested in January 2009 for failing to disclose his wartime history when he entered the US, said Nicole Navas, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman in Washington DC.

Documents identify him as an ethnic Serbian refugee. An immigration judge in late 2009 ordered him deported on multiple grounds, finding that he ordered or participated in "extrajudicial killing".

Court documents show Radojkovic was accused of failing to report that he had been a commander in the Republika Srpska Special Police Squad.

US and Bosnian authorities said Radojkovic was handed over to police at the Sarajevo airport yesterday for prosecution based on evidence collected by investigators from the ICE Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Centre, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia at The Hague and prosecutors from Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"For the families who lost loved ones at Srebrenica, justice has been a long time coming," Immigration and Customs Enforcement director John Morton said in a statement announcing Radojkovic's deportation.

"But they can take consolation in the fact that those responsible for this tragedy are now being held accountable."

Mr Morton promised to ensure the US "does not serve as a haven for human rights violators and others who have committed heinous acts".

The Immigration and Customs chief also pointed to the January 2010 deportation to Bosnia-Herzegovina of Nedjo Ikonic, living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, identified as another former special police commander linked to the Srebrenica massacre. Ikonic was Radojkovic's police commander.

Authorities preparing for the trial of former Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic on war crimes charges at The Hague, Netherlands, said this month the remains of almost 6,000 people had been exhumed from mass graves in the Srebrenica area. Estimates of the dead run as high as 8,000.

Mladic is standing trial before the military war tribunal on wider charges stemming from atrocities during a process dubbed "ethnic cleansing".

Bosnia's 1992-95 war following the break-up of the former Soviet republic of Yugoslavia left more than 100,000 dead.

Court documents show Radojkovic and his family were granted refugee status and admitted to the United States in June 1999. Radojkovic's wife Radojka died in a car crash in Las Vegas in September 2000. A newspaper obituary said she was 43.

His daughter, Ranka Shaw, divorced and moved last year to Bosnia, Mr Chairez said. A son, Ranko Radojkovic, lives in Las Vegas.

Radojkovic, who became a permanent US resident in January 2002, used money from an insurance settlement following the crash to open the grocery shop, Mr Chairez said.

The business closed after Radojkovic was arrested in January 2009. He remained in US custody for more than three years.

Mr Chairez said Radojkovic had been a police dog trainer in Sarajevo before the break-up of Yugoslavia and was drafted by the Bosnian Serbian military after the war began.

Radojkovic gave evidence in Milwaukee against Ikonic, who Mr Chairez said commanded three police units, including Radojkovic's.

"The government merely alleges that as an individual who was part of a group that accepted the surrender of these enemy soldiers, it is presumed that Radojkovic should have known that the Bosnian-Serbian military forces were likely to kill them," Mr Chairez protested in an appeal to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

The Muslim soldiers were loaded on buses and driven away, the lawyer said. "There is no evidence and there is no allegation that Radojkovic shot and killed a single prisoner," he added.

The court denied Mr Chairez's appeal in February, clearing the way for Radojkovic's deportation.

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