By Drazen Remikovic
The sentencing of Mevlid Jasarevic, a man who fired more than 100 bullets from an automatic rifle at the US embassy in Sarajevo in October 2011, sparked calls from officials in BiH and the international community for an increased anti-terrorism plan.
The Court of BiH, which qualified Jasarevic’s actions as “terrorist,” sentenced him to 18 years in prison on December 6th, but acquitted the two men who were accused of helping Jasarevic in the attack.
In his explanation of the sentence, Judge Branko Peric said that BiH is facing a growing danger from terrorism.
“We never had cases like these before. The Wahhabi community of Gornja Maoca doesn’t respect state laws and had shown itself to be beyond the control of the state. By withdrawing from there, BiH opened the door to terrorism. If it hadn’t been for Gornja Maoca, there woudn’t be a case like Jasarevic,” Peric said.
Jasarevic is originally from Novi Pazar, Serbia, but lived for some time in the northeastern BiH village of Gornja Maoca, known as a centre for the hard-line Wahhabi community.
Defense attorney Senad Dupovac said the sentence surprised him, but he maintained that Jasarevic acted alone.
“I was aware from the beginning that there was no organised terrorist group and I thought the sentence would be smaller. We will surely file a complaint on this verdict,” Dupovac told SETimes.
However, some experts disagree.
“Terrorism is not the work of an individual, but a group. In this case, the verdict punished only the perpetrator. [The] court hasn’t found the masterminds, helpers, didn’t punish the logistics of the attack,” Dzevad Galijasevic, director of the Southeast Europe Expert Team for the Fight Against Terrorism and Organised Crime, a regional NGO, told SETimes.
“It is good that one judge, as a high official who is not a politician, said that there is a huge risk of terrorism in BiH, but this must be a systematic approach. There were large gaps in secret services, prosecution, and this should not happen in the future,” Galijasevic said.
Borislav Bojic, a member of the Joint Commission for Defense and Security of the Assembly of BiH, said the verdict is a sign that the institutions intend to seriously tackle the problem of terrorism in the country.
“Institutions have to keep track of all those individuals and groups that are a threat to security of the citizens and the state. We need a systematic approach to the problem of terrorism and, of course, that all relevant factors of the government should be involved in it,” Bojic told SETimes.
This is the 11th terrorism conviction that has been imposed in BiH since 1997. Terrorism attacks in the country during that time have killed four people and injured 15. The total sentence imposed for these offences is 80 years in prison.