An extradition hearing has been set for Nov. 7 for a Croatian woman who had been living in Kentucky but was charged with murder and torture in Europe related to the unraveling of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert E. Wier in Lexington said Monday
the issues in the case are "coming into sharp focus" and he
should have a ruling on whether the extradition warrant for
52-year-old Azra Basic should be dismissed before the hearing date.
Basic is accused of murder and torture for crimes alleged to
have taken place after the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early
1990s. More than 100,000 people were killed in the war that
followed Yugoslavia's collapse. According to court documents, Basic
is charged with fatally stabbing a prisoner in the neck in 1992
during the conflict, along with other atrocities.
Basic, who appeared in court wearing a grey prison jump suit and
glasses, had been living for several years in Powell County in
eastern Kentucky, where she worked at a nursing home and a nearby
food factory, before her arrest in March.
Basic's attorney, Patrick Nash of Lexington, is seeking to
dismiss the case on multiple grounds, including that the United
States is misinterpreting a treaty with Bosnia, whether Basic, a
naturalized U.S. citizen, may be extradited, and whether the
statute of limitations has expired on the alleged crimes.
After Monday's hearing, Nash said the treaty, signed by
President Theodore Roosevelt and M. Michel V. Vouitch, the king of
Servia, in 1901, is no longer in effect.
"I think we've got a really valid argument on the dismissal
motion," Nash said in an interview. "Using a treaty of this age
in the way they're using it is fraught with problems."
Assistant U.S. Attorney James Arehart said in a motion that it
is up to the executive branch of the federal government to
determine if a treaty is in effect, even though the country has
changed names and forms of government.
"The political ideologies of the predecessor and successor
states are irrelevant," Arehart wrote.
The extradition hearing will focus on whether Bosnian officials
provided enough evidence in the documents requesting extradition to
show the likelihood of a crime. Department of Justice attorney
Terry Schubert told Wier that the United States will rely on the
documents at the hearing, rather than present witnesses.
"It is incumbent on the fugitive, if they can, to overcome the
evidence that is in the documents," Schubert said.
Nash said he may present witnesses at the hearing.
"It's certainly a possibility," Nash told the judge.
After the hearing, Nash said Basic is "not pleased" about the
current situation, but understand that the legal process takes
"She's willing to let the process play out in hopes that, in
the end, the court will come to the right decision," Nash said.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)