In Kentucky on Tuesday, U.S. authorities arrested a 51-year-old Croatian-born woman accused of war crimes against civilians during the Bosnian civil war in the 1990s.
Azra Bašic, who was living in the 600 block of Boone Creek Road in Stanton, is accused of torturing and murdering ethnic Serbs at prison camps from April to June 1992. Bosnia and Herzegovina officials want Bašic returned to that country to stand trial.
Loren "Squirrel" Carl, U.S. marshal for the Eastern District of Kentucky, would say only that Bašic was arrested in the district by the marshal service.
Documents filed in U.S. District Court in Lexington detail gruesome acts of torture and murder alleged to have been committed by Bašic while she was apparently a commander in a Croatian army brigade.
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Eyewitnesses Radojica Garic and Dragan Kovacevic said Bašic murdered Blagoje Djuras, who had been beaten to unconsciousness by Croatian police and soldiers, by slitting his throat with a knife, according to a court document.
"After that, Azra took us by the hair and dragged us to the wound on the neck from which the blood ran and made us drink that blood," Garic said.
Sreten Jovanovic testified he was forced to drink gasoline, beaten into unconsciousness, and had his hands and face set on fire by Bašic, according to the court document.
Mile Kuzmanovic said Bašic ordered him and others to swallow a handful of salt and eat Yugoslav money, then hit him with boots, weapon butts, metal bars, electrical cables and batons, the court document said.
Kuzmanovic said Bašic and other soldiers forced him to lick blood off of floors covered in broken glass and to crawl on those floors with a knotted rope in his mouth, which soldiers used to pull out prisoners' teeth. Kuzmanovic said his fingernails were pulled out with pliers and that "Azra herself, made a cut on my left auricle with some kind of pliers."
Another witness said that, in addition to cutting off Kuzmanovic's ear, Bašic carved a cross and four S's on Kuzmanovic's forehead.
Mormir Lazic said Bašic carved crosses into the foreheads and backs of various prisoners.
The International Criminal Police Organization, commonly known as Interpol, located Bašic in the Eastern District of Kentucky in 2004. A district court in Bosnia and Herzegovina issued an international arrest warrant for Bašic in October 2006. The U.S. received a formal request to extradite Bašic to Bosnia and Herzegovina in February 2007.
The U.S. government requested more evidence pertaining to the alleged offenses, which Bosnian prosecutors provided in February and April 2010, according to federal court records.
Lexington attorney Patrick Nash, who is representing Bašic, said he was not aware of any previous international extradition cases in the Eastern District of Kentucky.
"These are extraordinarily serious charges, so it requires an extraordinary level of care on my part," he said. "The allegation is that she was a participant in this war. By all accounts this war was very complicated, with religious elements in it. I'm not sure that present-day historians even have a handle on it as to what happened during that war," Nash said.
Bašic was born Azra Alesevic on June 22, 1959, in Rijeka, Croatia. She married Nedzad Bašic on March 1, 1994, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, according to court records.
Azra Bašic went by her maiden and married names, as well as the names Azra Kovacevic and Issabell Bašic, according to court records.
She lived in Rochester, N.Y., with her husband at one time. Court documents indicate she was living in the Lexington area in 2006 and had lived on Pecks Creek Road in Stanton. She moved to the Boone Creek Road address in Stanton in November, according to court records. She had a Kentucky driver's license and a Social Security number, the records indicate.