VIRGINIA

Almaz Nezirovic accused Bosnian war criminal detained

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ROANOKE, Va. (AP) - A former Bosnian prison camp guard who's lived in Roanoke County for more than a decade faces extradition to his native country on war-crimes charges.

A federal magistrate judge on Tuesday ordered 53-year-old Almaz Nezirovic  held without bond.

"I was very surprised," Nezirovic said of the order during Tuesday's hearing. Nezirovic is charged with torturing Serbians detained in the Rabic prison camp in the early 1990s during the civil war in the region of former Yugoslavia now known as Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The Roanoke Times reports that the complaint alleges that Nezirovic participated in beating prisoners with rifles and batons, starving them, ordering them to crawl naked on the ground and forcing them to eat urine-soaked grass.

"In these and other ways, the Fugitive participated in torturing and inflicting cruel, inhumane and humiliating treatment on multiple prisoners at the Rabic camp," the complaint states. U.S. Attorney Timothy Heaphy said his office will present additional evidence supporting the war-crimes charges within 60 days.

The judge will then decide whether Nezirovic should be extradited.

Nezirovic's attorney, public defender Fay Spence, has written in court documents that he denies the charges, which authorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina filed in 2003.

"At no time did Nezirovic detain or mistreat civilians, nor did he mistreat combatant prisoners at the Rabic camp," a motion filed on his behalf stated.

Nezirovic also faces related naturalization-fraud charges in connection with allegations of illegally concealing his wartime activities when applying for refugee status and naturalization in the United States.

He immigrated to Roanoke County about 15 years ago and has been working as a welder and also has coached soccer.

Federal prosecutors said when charges were filed in June 2011 that Nezirovic indicated on the applications that he had never committed acts for which he could be charged criminally, including the alleged abuse of prisoners at the war camp.

After his indictment, Nezirovic was allowed to remain free on bond. But authorities arrested him Tuesday morning on an extradition warrant after Bosnia-Herzegovina authorities decided to prosecute him on the war-crimes charges.

The extradition effort apparently takes precedence over the pending naturalization case, which was set for trial in September.

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