Former Bosnian prison camp guard charged with lying to get refugee status, citizenship in US

Jun 15, 2023, 8:41 AM

BOSTON (AP) — A former guard at a notoriously harsh and violent prison camp in Bosnia-Herzegovina where Serbian prisoners were killed, sexually assaulted, tortured and starved has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that he lied to get refugee status and, ultimately, his U.S. citizenship, prosecutors said.

Kemal Mrndzic, 51, who now lives in the Boston area, is charged with using a fraudulently obtained U.S. passport; possessing and using a fraudulently obtained naturalization certificate and fraudulently obtained Social Security card; making a false statement to federal law enforcement officers; and engaging in a scheme to conceal his involvement in persecution during the Bosnian War, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston said in a statement Wednesday.

An email and voicemail seeking comment was left with Mrndzic’s attorney on Thursday. A listed telephone number for Mrndzic, who lives in Swampscott north of Boston, was no longer in service.

He will appear in court at a later date.

“Emigrating to the United States is a privilege and if you conceal criminal conduct to deceive your way into this country, you will ultimately be detected,” acting U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Joshua Levy said in a statement.

Mrndzic was a guard supervisor at the Celebici prison camp during the Bosnian War in the 1990s, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

The United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia found that guards at the camp killed, sexually assaulted and tortured Serbian prisoners, and three former guards were indicted and convicted of playing a role in that persecution, prosecutors said.

Numerous survivors have since identified Mrndzic as being involved in beatings and other abuses at the camp, prosecutors said.

“The prison conditions at Celebici were exceptionally harsh,” states a Homeland Security investigator’s affidavit. “Hundreds of prisoners were forced to sit in rows, shoulder to shoulder on the concrete floor of a large metal hangar for months. They slept on the same concrete spot, without blankets or bedding.”

“Dozens of other prisoners were forced into a long lightless underground tunnel where they sat shoulder to shoulder on the concrete floor,” the affidavit said. “The tunnel was insufficiently wide to lie out straight at night, and the men were so tightly packed that if one man had to turn over, all those around him had to do the same.”

Mrndzic was questioned by the tribunal after the war, but fled to Croatia and applied as a refugee to the U.S. by falsely claiming in his interview and application that he was captured and abused by Serbian forces and could not return home for fear of future persecution, prosecutors said.

He was admitted to the U.S. as a refugee in 1999, and was granted U.S. citizenship in 2009, authorities said.

Mrndzic was arrested in May and released on $30,000 bond.

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Former Bosnian prison camp guard charged with lying to get refugee status, citizenship in US