Court jails Bosnia Serb for 13 years for war crimes

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - The Bosnian war crimes court jailed a Bosnian Serb policeman for 13 years on Friday for the persecution and torture of Bosnian Muslims and the rape of Muslim women in the early 1990s.

Zeljko Lelek, 46, took part in widespread and systematic attacks on Bosnian Muslim civilians by Bosnian Serbs in the town of Visegrad between April and June 1992, the court’s council said.

“Zeljko Lelek is found guilty of taking part in the persecution of the Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) population, grave freedom deprivations, grave sexual assaults and forcible transfer of the population,” council president Hilmo Vucinic said.

Vucinic said Lelek took part in a campaign during which Bosnian Muslim men were abducted from their homes and jobs, arrested and killed while women were taken to a camp where they were tortured and raped.

About 4,000 Muslims from Visegrad went missing after the ethnic cleansing campaign by the Bosnian Serb forces, assisted by paramilitary groups from neighbouring Serbia.

In April 1992, Lelek and Milan Lukic, a Bosnian Serb also indicted for war crimes in Visegrad, repeatedly raped a Muslim woman in a Visegrad spa hotel.

In June 1992, Lelek forced a Muslim woman detained in the same hotel to provide him with sexual services, the verdict said.

In May and June 1992, Lelek and other Bosnian Serb soldiers and policemen abducted Muslim men from their houses near Visegrad and imprisoned them. They robbed and demolished their homes.

In one such occasion, Lelek forced a Muslim woman and her 80-year-old, bed-ridden mother-in-law to take off their clothes to prove they had no money with them.

“This is nothing,” said Azra Osmanagic, a prosecution witness, of the verdict.

Osmanagic was in a group of women who were forced out of their homes in Visegrad and bussed to territory held by the Bosnian Muslim-dominated army. Lelek escorted her bus, armed with a rifle, she said. Her husband was abducted and killed.

“He was raised with us, went to school with us, lived by us and did such terrible things. This is a zero verdict,” she said.

Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic