A naturalized U.S. citizen living in Vermont pleaded not guilty Friday to charges that he lied on his citizenship application about gruesome war crimes he is accused of having committed 21 years ago during the Bosnian war.
The man, Edin Sakoc, 54, who lives with his wife and a 6-year-old daughter in Burlington, Vt., was being held by U.S. marshals pending a court appearance Monday at which a judge will decide whether to release him pending trial.
The grand jury indictment, which was unsealed Friday in U.S. District Court in Burlington, alleges that Sakoc, a Bosnian Muslim, kidnapped and raped a Bosnian Serb woman and abetted the killings her mother and aunt in July 1992 — only three months into what would become a 31/2-year bloodbath as ethnic and religious factions fought over the remains of the former Yugoslavia.
That’s not what he’s charged with, however. The indictment formally charges him with two counts of failing to disclose the alleged crimes, first in 2004 when he applied for legal permanent residence and again in 2007 when he applied for and was granted U.S. citizenship.
If convicted, Sakoc could be sentenced to as long as 10 years in prison, fined as much as $250,000 and lose his U.S. citizenship.
In a statement, Bruce Foucart, the special agent in charge of ICE’s office for Homeland Security Investigations in Boston, said, “Alleged human rights violators who believe they can find a safe haven in the United States are sorely mistaken.
“Even if they take on a different identity in an effort to protect themselves from prosecution, they will be discovered and they will be brought to justice for their crimes,” he said.