The Justice Files: Utah man accused of war crimes

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WEST VALLEY CITY (ABC4 Utah) – For 25 years, Mehmed Bilic lived a peaceful life.

The former Bosnian soldier and his family migrated to Utah following the strife between involving Serbians and Bosnian muslims.  In 1993 he was in a concentration camp during a period of ethnic cleansing.  With the help of the Red Cross, he chose to bring his family to Utah and eventually became a U.S. citizen.

“He’s a very nice guy,” said longtime neighbor Dan Curtis.  He’s been her for quite a while.

His home is well preserved. As a finished carpenter neighbors said home stood out because of its appearance.  They said he was a very good neighbor and someone who they trust.

“He’s just so good with all the neighbors,” said Curtis.  He’s willing to always help.  He’s quiet.  No problems what so ever.”

But Curtis said he was outside in his front yard 18-months ago when federal agents placed him under arrest.

An international warrant was filed in Utah’s federal court.  In recently unsealed documents Bosnian Serbs want him extradited.  He’s accused of committing “war crimes against civil population,” according to the affidavit filed in federal court.

A Serbian told authorities he was “physically and mentally abused” by Bilic and three other Bosnian soldiers while in captivity in 1992.

The same witness claimed two Serbian friends who were also captured disappeared.  He later learned “both were just dead.”  He blamed Bilic and the soldiers for their death.

At his home in West Valley, Bilic’s daughter refused comment and referred all questions to a family attorney.  Attorney Rod Snow said the allegations are political revenge by Serbians who despise Bosnian muslims.

“(He) denies them (allegations) because they’re false,” said Snow.  “He was at a prison camp when it happened.”

Snow said Bilic returned to Bosnia twice after the warrant was issued but was never detained.  He doesn’t understand why they finally are demanding his return.

He said in the 1990’s many Bosnian Serbs were convicted of war crimes including murder and rape.  He said now that the Serbians have their own government they are attempting to balance the scales.

“If he goes back it will be a stacked deck against him,” Snow said.

He said a public defender is representing Bilic against the extradition warrant.

Back in his neighborhood, Al Hayes was one of the few people to talk with Bilic following his release from jail.  Bilic’s spent 18-months behind bars and was released two weeks ago.

“He definitely says he is not guilty and we do believe and a lot of people believe that he is not guilty of any war crime,” said Hayes.

Hayes said he’s known Bilic for the 25-years he’s in his neighborhood.  

 “It definitely doesn’t fit his personality,” said Hayes. Not at all, he would not harm a flea. He doesn’t understand how one person can make all these things up and it gets him arrested.”

Hayes said Bilic is now wearing an ankle monitor as part of his release from jail.  

Attorney Rod Snow said the next move in court will determine his fate.  He said they’re waiting for the judge to rule whether he’ll be extradited to face war crimes or be allowed to return to his West Valley home and once again, live in peace.

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