An attorney for a Croatian woman accused of committing war crimes in Bosnia told a federal judge Friday in Lexington that she should be allowed to stay in the U.S. instead of facing charges in Europe.
Azra Basic is accused of torturing prisoners after the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. U.S. officials want the 52-year-old woman extradited to Bosnia to face charges of murder and torture.
But a long list of international issues stand in the way of extradition, including the absence of a treaty between Bosnia and the U.S., and whether the statute of limitations has expired on the alleged crimes, her attorney, Patrick Nash, argued Wednesday. Basic (pronounced bah’-sich) is also a naturalized U.S. citizen, and Nash said that complicates things.
According to court documents, Basic is charged with fatally stabbing a prisoner in the neck in 1992 during the conflict in Eastern Europe, along with other atrocities.
She appeared in court Wednesday in a grey jumpsuit with handcuffs on her wrists and shackles around her ankles. Basic spoke only privately to Nash during the hearing and waved to a couple as she was leaving after the proceedings.
Many people who know Basic say she was friendly and lived a peaceful life in Kentucky. The woman known locally as “Issabella” in Stanton took jobs in a nursing home and also worked at a food factory.
“I’d say she’s probably terrified of being sent back,” said Edith Fultz, who lives in Cynthiana and met Basic through her sister-in-law. Fultz and her husband have been visiting Basic in jail weekly and said they believe Basic was trying to survive in the middle of a bloody war.
“A lot of people kill people in a war because they have to,” Fultz said outside the courtroom Wednesday. “She did not commit the things they are saying.”
More than 100,000 people were killed in the ethnic war that followed Yugoslavia’s collapse, most of them Muslim Bosnians.
Fultz said Basic came here as a refugee and was not hiding out in Kentucky.
“She told us if she was trying to hide, she wouldn’t have come here,” Fultz said.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Weir said he would rule on the arguments at a later date. Basic’s extradition hearing is set for Aug. 22.
The majority of this article was written by Dylan Lovan and published by the Associated Press on July 8, 2011.
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