(Reuters) – An Ohio man accused of serving with a paramilitary police unit that participated in the 1995 Serbian massacre of 8,000 Muslim Bosnians will be deported under a plea deal reached Thursday in federal court.
The U.S. government last year accused Oliver Dragic, of Akron, Ohio, of failing to disclose that he served in a special unit in Bosnia and fraudulently gaining entry to the United States as a refugee in 1998, claiming to be a victim of the war.
Dragic, 42, is the latest of several men in northern Ohio who prosecutors have charged in recent years with concealing their involvement in the Bosnian war to enter the United States.
Dragic admitted making false statements, but denied he or his police unit was involved the massacres or war crimes near Srebrenica in 1995, said Dragic’s public defender, Darin Thompson.
During the 1992-95 Bosnian War, some 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed by Bosnian Serb troops under the command of former General Ratko Mladic at Srebrenica in July 1995, the worst mass killing on European soil since World War Two.
The U.S. government alleged that Dragic’s paramilitary police unit was deployed around Srebrenica to find survivors and prevent their escape.
Dragic was granted permanent resident status in 2001. In August 2016 he was charged with three counts of fraudulently obtaining immigration documents.
Prosecutors said he failed to disclose his service for the Republika Srpska, which attempted to create an ethnically pure Serbian nation within the ethnically mixed territory of the Yugoslav Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
“This defendant claimed to be a refugee but served in a paramilitary force during the war in the former Yugoslavia,” U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said in a statement on Thursday.
Dragic, in a hearing before U.S. District Judge Dan Polster, pleaded guilty Thursday to one count and agreed to be deported to Bosnia, Thompson said. His sentencing is scheduled for March.
Thompson did not know if Dragic would face repercussions once returned to Bosnia.
The vetting of refugees has gained political prominence since Republican President Donald Trump came into office with a goal of sharply cutting refugee admissions and enacting stricter background checks, efforts that continue to be challenged in court.
Reporting by Chris Kenning; Editing by James Dalgleish