Bosnia and Herzegovina: Bosnic Recruited our Sons to IS, Say Witnesses

Published: 26 March 2015

Husein "Bilal" Bosnic

By Igor Spaic

Wahhabi leader Bilal Bosnic recruited a young man to fight for the Islamic State after hiring the boy to tend his sheep, a court in Bosnia has heard.

For the first time since the beginning of the trial of Husein "Bilal" Bosnic in early February, a court session yesterday heard two witnesses directly accuse the preacher of inciting their sons to travel to Syria to take up arms.

One of the two young men, reported by local media to be in their early 20s, is now dead.

Bosnic stands accused of organizing a terrorist group, publicly inciting terrorist activities, and recruiting locals to join a terrorist organization. He listened from the dock as the prosecution called Sefik Cufurovic and Rifet Sabic to testify.

Both witnesses, who are from the town of Velika Kladusa in northwest Bosnia, said that their sons went to fight in Syria for Islamic State (IS) militants.

Cufurovic told the court his son, Ibro, had been a good child and an excellent student before allegedly falling under Bosnic's influence.

He said Ibro had started working for Bosnic in the summer of 2013, looking after his sheep, and even lived with the man, who is a prominent figure in the conservative Wahhabi movement in Bosnia.

According to Cufurovic, he saw changes in his son's behavior after he spent time with Bosnic. 

"He started attacking me for not being a good Muslim, for not praying five times [a day] and for smoking, which is a sin. He told me I was an infidel," Cufurovic said.

He added: "I was against all this Wahhabism. One time, [Ibro] came home and tore up all of his photos."

Cufurovic told the court his relationship with his son broke down, and that after that Ibro spoke only to his mother Zekija and his older brother, Serif.

He said in December Ibro's brother told him he had learned from a short phone call that Ibro had travelled to Syria.

"That's when my wife got upset, but it was too late," said Cufurovic.

He told the court that Ibro called one more time to speak to his mother, trying to persuade her to join him in Syria and "marry one of the brothers" (a term Islamic fundamentalists use among themselves).

Ibro is thought to have married in Syria himself. His whereabouts are unknown.

"I say that he sent him there," said Cufurovic, looking at Bosnic. "From his house he left for Syria, not from mine."

Cufurovic, who remained calm and quiet throughout his testimony, then addressed the defendant directly: "Aren't you ashamed for misleading those children?"

Another witness, Rifet Sabic, told the court his son Suad left for Syria in late 2013, and was killed fighting for IS early this year.

"Any family whose house was ever visited by Bilal Bosnic is destroyed," Sabic testified.

He said he suspected that not only his son but others, too, had been influenced by Bosnic to leave for Syrian battlefields.

After the witnesses had testified, Bosnic's lawyer Adil Lozo said he could sense "enormous hatred" emanating from the witnesses toward his client.

He expressed sympathy for the fathers whose sons left for Syria, but said they were simply looking for somebody else to blame.  

Bosnic denies the charges. His defense says he is merely a preacher of Islamic teachings, and that the trial is an unjustified attack on his religious freedom.