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Everett man arrested, accused of war crimes in 1990s

He faces extradition to Bosnia to stand trial

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By Noah Haglund and Debra Smith
Herald Writers
EVERETT -- An Everett man faces possible extradition to his native Bosnia on charges of being a war criminal.
A defense attorney, however, will argue that Edin Dzeko, 39, is not the same person witnesses identified as participating in a massacre of Croatian civilians in the early 1990s.
U.S. Marshals took Dzeko into custody Wednesday morning at the request of the government of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He is accused there of war crimes, including helping lead an attack on a village that ended in 16 deaths and serious injuries for four people, including two infants.
Court papers accuse Dzeko of war crimes in 1993 when he was 21. He immigrated to the U.S. in 2001 and became a naturalized citizen in 2006.
There were a number of people gathered Wednesday morning at the man's Everett home. They declined to answer questions.
Federal prosecutors in Seattle are assisting in extraditing Dzeko to Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Dzeko, who stands over 6 feet tall and wears his salt-and-pepper hair in a crew cut, made his initial appearance in court Wednesday wearing a blue sweatshirt and jeans. He was quiet and attentive as U.S. Magistrate Judge James Donohue ordered him detained pending a status hearing on April 27.
At that time, Dzeko's attorney, David Gehrke, will have a chance to present special circumstances to request that his client be allowed to be freed on bail. An extradition hearing would take place at a later date.
"On my advice, we're not going to acknowledge identity," Gehrke told the judge. "Identity could be an issue."
Afterward, Gehrke confirmed that he'll argue that authorities have detained the wrong man. Dzeko is a common last name in Bosnia, he added.
"He knows that justice will prevail, if not here, then in Bosnia," he said.
A group of five friends and family members, including Dzeko's wife, watched the court proceeding. Gehrke said his client works as a lead groundskeeper at a U.S. Navy facility and is the breadwinner for his wife and two children.
Just before noon Wednesday, a man who would only identify himself as a friend of Dzeko, emerged from the Dzekos' home in the Pinehurst neighborhood of Everett. He asked TV news crews to not photograph his family since he is a government employee. He said Dzeko is a good member of his community and innocent of the allegations in Bosnia.
"This is really sad," he said. "I've known this man for years."
Dzeko has owned the Everett home since 2005, records show.
The extradition request alleges that Dzeko was a member of the unit command for the Zulfikar Special Purposes Detachment of the Supreme Command Staff of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Dzeko and members of his unit are accused of specifically targeting Croatian civilians and soldiers of the Croatian Defense Council.
Dzeko is accused of taking part in a 1993 attack in the village of Trusina. He is accused of forcing an injured man out of the man's house at gunpoint, where he was shot to death by another member of the unit.
Dzeko also allegedly threw another man into the yard of a house and fatally shot him. He is accused of killing the man's wife when she wouldn't stop crying over her husband's death.
The extradition request also alleges that Dzeko was a member of an execution squad that killed a number of civilians and soldiers with the Croat Defense Council who had been captured and disarmed by Bosnian forces.
Herald writer Diana Hefley contributed to this report.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465,
Story tags » EverettWar -- historyWar crimesEurope

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