Boskic may face 20-year sentence
By Megan Tench, Globe Staff | July 13, 2006
A federal jury found Marko Boskic guilty yesterday on two counts of lying on US immigration documents about his past military service in a Serbian unit that participated in the torture and slaying of 1,200 civilian Muslims in a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing at Srebrenica during the Bosnian war.
Boskic, 41, an ethnic Croat and Roman Catholic who had been living as a construction worker in Peabody, was found not guilty of three other charges. After deliberating for about 10 hours, the 12-member jury ruled that Boskic did not lie when he said he never ``ordered, assisted, or otherwise participated" in the persecution or killing of any person because of race, religion, or political opinion. They also ruled that he did not lie when he was interviewed by US officials about his past.
Boskic -- who did not testify, but told investigators he was forced to participate in the mass executions -- is facing a maximum of 20 years in prison when he is sentenced on Oct. 24.
``This is a big win for us," said Boskic's defense attorney, Max Stern, adding that Boskic was ``very happy" with the jury findings. Jurors believed that he was not a willing participant in the slayings, Stern said, and the not guilty findings might help Boskic in the future if he is faced with charges of intentionally participating in the mass murders.
During the trial, Stern argued that after helping families flee the war, Boskic was sent to a Bosnian Serb concentration camp and was forced to join the 10th Sabotage Detachment, an arm of the Serbian Army that participated in the mass murders. Stern said Boskic was given a choice: kill the Muslims or be killed himself.
Federal prosecutors argued that Boskic was a cold-blooded executioner who lied to gain entry to the United States. He admitted that he helped kill 1,200 Muslims during the infamous 1995 massacre at Branjevo Farm outside Srebrenica only after being confronted by FBI officials in 2004, prosecutors said.
Jurors heard testimony from historians, federal officials, and two survivors of the massacre. The survivors said that after they were tied up and placed in lines of 10 and the executions began, they pretended to have been shot. They escaped by crawling under waves of dead bodies. Neither survivor identified Boskic as one of the shooters.
US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan said he was pleased with the guilty findings, but disappointed by the acquittals.
``Obviously his defense was: He did it under threat of death, and it wasn't based on any ethnic cleansing," Sullivan said. After Boskic serves his sentence, he could face deportation, Sullivan added.
Before dismissing the jurors, US District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock told jurors that he would not release their names and addresses to the media until tomorrow. ``You don't have to talk to anybody," Woodlock said, urging them to go home and relax.
Boskic was approved to enter the United States as a refugee in 2000.
Since moving to Peabody in 2003, Boskic has been charged with 10 counts of assault in four court cases. In one incident, he was accused of striking a former girlfriend with a baseball bat and then jamming the bat into the stomach of a pregnant woman who tried to stop him, according police reports.
Such details about Boskic's recent past were not heard by jurors. Instead they tried to absorb details about the Bosnian war. They heard about the FBI's ruse to bring him to the John F. Kennedy Federal Building under the pretext that he was applying for travel documents. It was only when officials showed him a video, obtained by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, that shows Boskic in full uniform of the 10th Sabotage Detachment, holding a rifle during one of the unit's awards ceremony just three months after the massacre, that Boskic admitted that he killed Muslims.
While Boskic managed to elude law enforcement, enter the United States in 2000, and even obtain a Massachusetts driver's license, he had been implicated in the massacre in 1996, when he was the subject of a Page 1 story in the Globe. The story detailed the accusations against Boskic by Bosnian Muslim and Serb sources and his threatening of a Globe reporter, the late Elizabeth Neuffer, who had asked him about the allegations.
FBI officials have since credited Neuffer, who was killed in 2003 in a car crash in Iraq, for prompting their investigation.
Families of Bosnian victims and US officials decried the decisions by the International War Tribunal and the US Justice Department not to charge Boskic as a war criminal. In 2004, officials of the tribunal said that with limited resources it is only focusing on higher-level officials who planned and ordered executions. Earlier this year, officials with the Justice Department said it needed more evidence to charge Boskic under special federal torture laws which require proof that he intentionally killed his victims.
© Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company.
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