Bosnia and Herzegovina: Two Witnesses at Trial of Suspected IS Recruiter Tell How Sons Left for Syria

Published: 26 February 2015

Husein "Bilal" Bosnic

By Igor Spaic

The fathers of two young men who left Bosnia and Herzegovina forthe battlefields of Syria spoke at yesterday's hearing in the trial Husein "Bilal" Bosnic.

It is the third in the case against the informal Salafi leader, who stands accused of publicly inciting and organizing the departure of Bosnian citizens to fight with Islamic State forces in Syria. He is also suspected by prosecutors of receiving money from Arab countries to fund the alleged recruitment drive.

Prosecutor Dubravko Campara called witnesses Hasaga Crljenkovic and Muharem Borovac, who both testified that they believed Bosnic had nothing to do with their children leaving.

However, both witnesses confirmed that their sons were linked to the defendant through attending prayers at a mosque where Bosnic used to give speeches.

Both families are from the north-western municipality of Prijedor, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the two young men were cousins.According to their fathers, they were together in Syria.

Hasaga Crljenkovic's son Amir died in the conflict aged 23 – eight months after he arrived in the country. His father said he was informed of Amir's death by his sons friends who sent him photographic proof via Skype. He did not specify what exactly could be seen on the images, or when it had happened. He said all he knew was that his son was in Raqqa with Chechens.

Crljenkovic sought to emphasize that Bosnic had nothing to do with the departure and ultimate death of Amir, saying, "My son was always in Islam, I raised him that way. A verse from the Qur'an – 'Fight on the path of Allah by sacrificing your belongings and your lives' – was the motive of his departure".

Muharem Borovac's son Enes left for Syria in November 2013. Borovac said he does not know where his son is, how he got there, or with whom he left. He said they are rarely in contact due to bad phone signal. He added that his other son, who lives in Slovenia and communicates with Enes from time to time, told him Enes had been wounded but recovered.

Both men mentioned that, together with their sons, they attended Friday prayers at the mosques Husein Bosnic spoke at, such as one in the municipality of Buzim, but that there had been no mention of fighting in the Syrian conflicts at those gatherings.

However, both witnesses mentioned that their sons would occasionally go to the Salafi villages Gornja Maoca and Osva, where the religious community is widely thought to be extremist. Allegedly, both young men had disagreed with their local religious communities over Islamic praying rituals. Borovac said his son wanted to move to Osva because of the lifestyle there – women are fully covered and the interpretation of the Qur'an is more strict.

Bosnic's defence lawyer, Adil Lozo, requested that his client's custody not be extended after it expires on March 3. He said that one of his client's wives is heavily pregnant and that Bosnic needs to support his family. Bosnic already has 17 children with four women, one of whom he is legally married to. He lives together with three other informal wives.

The prosecutor disagreed,demanding an extension to the custody. The judge said the court will decide shortly.