Federal appeals judges have upheld a decision allowing the extradition of a Central Kentucky woman accused of murder and torture during the vicious civil war in Bosnia more than 20 years ago.
Azra Basic had challenged a ruling by U.S. District Judge Karen K. Caldwell that said Basic could be deported to face trial in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as the country is known.
Basic fought in the war there before immigrating to the United States and becoming a citizen.
Basic’s attorney, Patrick F. Nash, argued that a treaty does not allow extradition of U.S. citizens to Bosnia and that Bosnian authorities did not issue a proper arrest warrant for her.
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A three-judge panel of the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, ruling last week that the treaty in place between the United States and Bosnia does not bar Basic from being extradited.
The appeals panel also said that while there was no document titled a “warrant of arrest” included in paperwork from Bosnia charging Basic, other documents in the file constituted a valid warrant.
The ruling would clear the way for Basic to be extradited.
However, Caldwell approved Nash’s request to forbid extradition while Nash asks the U.S. Supreme Court to consider Basic’s challenge.
If the Supreme Court ultimately decides Basic can be extradited, that would not be the last word. The U.S. Secretary of State would have to decide whether to send Basic to Bosnia to be tried.
Basic, a Muslim Croatian who is in her late 50s, came to the United States as a refugee in 1994. She eventually settled in Kentucky and became a naturalized citizen in 2007.
She lived at times in Lexington or Jessamine County and worked various jobs, including at nursing homes, according to court records.
The civil war in Bosnia broke out when the Communist country of Yugoslavia disintegrated in the early 1990s. The war involved ethnic Serbs, Croats and Muslims.
Caldwell said in her ruling that Serbian forces engaged in ethnic cleansing, terrorizing non-Serb civilians to try to drive them out.
Those who stayed were subject to torture, rape, mutilation and murder by Serb forces. However, some victims later adopted similar tactics, Caldwell said.
After being subjected to atrocities in a Serbian prison camp, Basic joined Croatian military forces, according to Nash.
Bosnian authorities contended that she murdered one civilian and tortured three others in 1992.
Witnesses said she took part in horrific conduct, including killing one man by stabbing him in the throat and forcing other prisoners to drink his blood.
Nash said Basic contends she took part only in regular military actions against opposing soldiers, and denies being involved in war crimes against soldiers or civilians.
Caldwell said evidence was mixed on whether the people Basic is accused of attacking were soldiers.
However, there was sufficient evidence for a finding that they were civilians and that she could be extradited to face trial, the judge ruled.