Bosnian suspected of abusing detained Serbs arrested in Va.
RICHMOND — A Bosnian charged in Virginia with naturalization fraud was formerly a prison guard who abused Serb civilian detainees during the war in the former Yugoslavia, according to a federal grand jury indictment unsealed yesterday.
The two-count indictment says Almaz Nezirovic “willfully caused great suffering and serious injury’’ to Serb civilians at the Rabic prison camp in 1992. At the time, Nezirovic was a member of the Croatian military and was serving as a guard at the camp where Serb detainees were held. After the three-year war ended in 1995, Nezirovic sought refugee status in the United States, where he later applied for a green card and to become a naturalized citizen. The indictment alleges that Nezirovic lied on his applications by falsely claiming he had not committed crimes outside the United States.
Nezirovic, 52, made his initial appearance yesterday in US District Court in Charlottesville. He remains in federal custody pending a detention hearing Monday in Roanoke.
John Torres, special agent in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Washington, D.C., and Virginia, said in a telephone interview that information from a foreign government helped US authorities track down Nezirovic, who was arrested Thursday at his home in Roanoke.
Brian McGinn, a spokesman for the US attorney’s office, said Nezirovic is unemployed and was living with his wife and son. He had no further details about Nezirovic’s life in Roanoke.
Torres said several witnesses identified Nezirovic as a guard at the Rabic camp who was responsible for “beatings and torture of ethnic Serbs.’’ Other members of Nezirovic’s unit in the Croatian Defense Council have been convicted of war crimes against civilians at Rabic and similar facilities.
Torres said that if Nezirovic is convicted of the naturalization fraud charges, the immigration office will take him into custody and start deportation proceedings after he serves any prison sentence handed down by the federal judge. The offenses are punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Nezirovic could then be tried for detainee abuse in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Torres said.
“That’s typically what happens in these cases,’’ he said.