April 4 (UPI) — The Justice Department filed lawsuits Wednesday against two convicted Bosnian war criminals, who it says fraudulently gained naturalized U.S. citizenship.
According to the lawsuits, Edin Dzeko, 46, and Sammy Rasema Yetisen, 45, were part of an elite unit of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
U.S. officials said during the Bosnian war in the 1990s, the two killed civilians and prisoners of war due to their religion and ethnicity, concealed their crimes and fraudulently obtained refugee status and eventual naturalized U.S. citizenship.
The lawsuits say Dzeko and Yetisen participated in the April 16, 1993, Trusina massacre, an attack that killed 22 unarmed civilians. The attackers targeted Bosnian-Croats because of their Christian religion and Croat ethnicity.
A Bosnian court found that Dzeko and Yetisen played key roles in the massacre and were both part of a firing squad that also executed six unarmed prisoners of war and civilians.
To make sure they all died, Yetisen shot them repeatedly — while Dzeko killed a crippled elderly man and shot his wife because she wouldn’t stop crying, according to the lawsuits.
“Dzeko and Yetisen concealed and affirmatively misrepresented their criminal history, military service, and persecutory acts throughout their immigration proceedings,” the department said. “Such benefits would have been denied had immigration authorities known about the defendants’ roles in the Trusina massacre.”
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the United States will not be a safe haven for war criminals.
“We will be steadfast as we investigate and prosecute human rights violators, torturers, and war criminals. This is especially true for those who fraudulently obtain U.S. citizenship,” Sessions said in a statement. “For too long, we have tolerated egregious fraud in our refugee program, our immigration system, and the naturalization process. This administration will hold alleged fraudsters accountable.”
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said anyone who breaks immigration laws for U.S. citizenship will be punished.
“National security is homeland security and fraudulently obtaining U.S. citizenship will not be tolerated,” Neilson said. “Those who abuse our generous immigration system take opportunities away from those who follow our laws and who undoubtedly deserve U.S. citizenship.”
U.S. officials learned about the crimes in 2011 when granting the pair’s extraditions to Bosnia and Herzegovina at the country’s treaty-based request.
In 2012, Yetisen was convicted in a Bosnia court and sentenced to five and-a-half years in prison. He now lives in Oregon. Dzeko was convicted in 2014 and continues to serve time in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the suits said.
Before U.S. officials learned about the crimes, Dzeko and Yetisen had requested and received refugee status, saying they’d been victims of persecution.