Syracuse (WSYR-TV) – An attorney representing a man suspected of committing war crimes in Eastern Europe says that her client denies all of the charges against him.
A detention hearing to determine whether or not 50-year-old Sulejman Mujagic would remain in custody was held Thursday. Mujagic is charged with unlawful killing of the enemy and unlawful wounding and torture of a prisoner of war while commanding a platoon in the Army of the Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia.
His attorney, Randi Bianco, told Federal Magistrate David Peeble that Mujagic believes someone in Bosnia was tortured until they produced the accusations against him. According to the attorney, Mujagic says such incidents were common in Bosnia during the late 1990s.
Bianco also told the court they plan to appeal any effort to extradite him to the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. An extradition hearing is slated for the week of Jan. 30.
With dozens of the man's friends and family members present in the court, the defense argued that Mujagic should be allowed to leave custody because of injuries he sustained during combat. They say he suffers from severe migraines due to shrapnel lodged in his head, but the judge determined that incarceration would not be detrimental to his health.
In addition, the defense said the government believes Mujagic had known about the charges for years, but he did not run away or attempt to hide his identity. Mujagic owns property in the Utica area and the attorney said he renewed his green card last year.
They say that if he were a flight risk, he would have attempted to run away or conceal his identity from the authorities.
The judge, however, said that because of the “severity” of the charges, he could remain at risk to flee.
Finally, they claimed that the authorities waited too long to exercise the warrant for Mujagic’s arrest, but the judge agreed that the delay didn’t constitute a reason to allow him to be let out of custody.
Upon his arrest, U.S. Homeland Security said the charges involve the killing of one captured soldier and the torture of another who'd been fighting for the army of Bosnia and Herzegovina on March 6, 1995.
Mujagic was fighting for a region that had seceded from the central government during the Bosnian War.
Authorities say he moved to Utica in 1997.