Bosnia and Herzegovina: Final Statements in Alleged IS Recruiter's Trial

During the final statements in the case against suspected Islamic State (IS) recruiter Husein Bosnic in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the state prosecutor requested the maximum, 20-year prison sentence be imposed.

Husein BosnicBosnic's defense, on the other hand, seeks acquittal on all charges.

As the trial against Bosnic came to a close, prosecutor Dubravko Campara and defense attorney Adil Lozo exchanged their final statements in front of the Bosnian court on Wednesday.

Campara told how throughout the course of the trial, the prosecution had "without reasonable doubt" proven Bosnic's guilt on all three charges - inciting terrorist activities, being part of a terrorist group, and organizing the departure of Bosnian citizens to fight alongside IS in foreign battlefields.

Husein "Bilal" Bosnic is the informal leader of the Salafi community in Bosnia and Herzegovina – a group that follows an extremist interpretation of Islam outside of the country's mainstream Islamic community.

He was arrested alongside 15 others in the September 2014 crackdown on alleged IS supporters dubbed Operation Damascus.

Prosecutor Campara said it is clear the deaths of at least six young men, who left the country to fight alongside IS in Syria and Iraq, were the consequence of Bosnic's actions.

During the trial, the court has heard testimony from the parents of several of the men.

Campara recalled statements by witnesses who told the court Bosnic was the main religious authority in the north-western municipality of Buzim, and that in that role he influenced young men to join the ranks of IS.

The prosecutor mentioned, among others, the testimony of protected witness "B1", who said there was intelligence showing that Bosnic colluded with Nusret Imamovic, former informal leader of Bosnian Salafis (now believed to be fighting alongside IS rival Al-Qaeda's Jabhat al-Nusra paramilitary unit) to select people from Bosnia and Herzegovina to travel to Syrian battlefields.

Bosnic also received large sums of money to buy property for the Salafi community to use in their IS recruitment activities, according to Campara.

The prosecutor also reminded the court of the testimonies of experts Vlado Azinovic, a professor of terrorism-related studies at Bosnia's State University for Political Science, Selvedin Beganovic, former Islamic leader, and Irhad Kos, the forensic expert who examined Bosnic's computer and mobile phone. 

Azinovic testified that, after scrutinizing Youtube videos of Bosnic's speeches, he concluded that Bosnic idealises IS and "either advocates, or strengthens an existing decision" of those who listen to the speeches to go fight for the terrorist organization.

Beganovic claimed that Bosnic twisted the teachings of Islam, interpreting Islamic teachings in a misleading and destructive way and prompting those who listen to go to Jihad. 

Kos said that after reviewing the mobile phone Bosnic was using at the time the alleged crimes were committed – between 2013 and 2014 – he found a number of the contact details of people who investigators found had joined IS in Syria and Iraq.

Lozo, Bosnic's defense lawyer, argued however that the prosecutor had failed to prove any of the charges.

He said most statements Bosnic made in his speeches were verses from the Kur'an, and that the trial itself was an attack on Bosnic's right to freedom of religion and expression.

He also disputed the testimony of Vlado Azinovic, insisting he was not an expert in religious studies, and was thus unaware that Bosnic's statements are contained in Islamic teachings.

Lozo said he believed some of the witnesses, including former Salafi member Dino Pecenkovic, likely gave statements against Bosnic in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

He also recalled that some of the parents who testified to the fates of their now-deceased children had claimed Bosnic had nothing to do with their children's decision to go to the battlefields – even though they were in contact with Bosnic shortly before leaving the country.

The money Bosnic received from Arab countries was meant for buying property to provide housing for the poor along with other altruistic activities, said Lozo.

Bosnic gave his final statement at the end of the hearing, denying any wrongdoing.

"The heavens and the earth are witnesses to my innocence," said Bosnic, adding that a great injustice had been done to him.

A verdict is expected on November 4.