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New Trial for Sarajevo Embassy Shooter, New Deal for Slovenian Banks

Plus, Poland and Ukraine mark painful wartime anniversaries and an update on the slow-moving probe into a Russian activist’s murder.

by Ioana Caloianu, Ky Krauthamer, Vladimir Matan, and Molly Jane Zuckerman 16 July 2013

1. Sarajevo embassy shooter wins new trial

 

An appeals court in Bosnia and Herzegovina has ordered a retrial for the man convicted of firing at the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo, Balkan Insight reports.

 

Mevlid Jasarevic, 24, was sentenced in December to 18 years in prison for a terrorist attack on the embassy in October 2011 when he opened fire on the building with an automatic rifle. The incident, some of which was captured on video, lasted some 50 minutes and a police guard in front of the building was seriously wounded.

 

 

In October 2011, a man identified as Mevlid Jasarevic fired more than 100 rifle rounds at the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo. From a video by Danijel JoksimovićVEVO/YouTube.

 

In revoking Jasarevic’s sentence and ordering a retrial, the court noted “essential violations” of his right to a defense and a fair trial, Reuters reports.

 

Jasarevic made a video in which he explained the attack as revenge for American crimes “against Islam and Muslims across the world.” The attack reawakened fears of radical Islam in the region, Reuters writes.

 

Jasarevic’s attorney said his client will contest the terrorism charge during the new trial although he may be willing to confess to the shooting, according to Balkan Insight.

 

Two men charged with helping Jasarevic were acquitted at the December trial for lack of evidence.

 

A native of Serbia, Jasarevic at one time lived in Gornja Maoca, a village in Bosnia thought to be a stronghold of Islamic fundamentalism, Balkan Insight writes.

 

2. Mixed signals on Estemirova murder anniversary

 

Russian authorities and human rights activists have been issuing contradictory statements about an investigation into the murder of a prominent human rights advocate in Chechnya, according to Radio Free Europe. Natalya Estemirova, an activist with the prominent Memorial Human Rights Center, was abducted and killed 15 July 2009 in the Chechen capital, Grozny.

 

Natalya Estemirova
Russian Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said 15 July that the investigation continues into Estemirova’s death and that the suspected killer, Alkhazur Bashayev, is believed to be in France.

 

Investigators believe Estemirova was killed as “vengeance” for her reports from Chechnya.

 

That theory was rejected by Memorial head Aleksandr Cherkasov, RFE reports. Cherkasov claimed that after an initial investigation revealed the involvement of local law enforcement, Estemirova’s case was put on hold.

 

Kheda Saratova, a former colleague of Estemirova, also rejected the official statements as “a complete lie” and said investigators' claims about the involvement of Bashayev and his two brothers, alleged to be terrorists, were false.

 

RIA Novosti adds that the Investigative Committee responded to Cherkasov’s complaint with a statement saying the investigation has been extended until 15 August 2013.

 

In 2011, Memorial said Estemirova's killing was likely linked to her probe into an extrajudicial murder in a Chechen village and urged the authorities not to focus solely on the theory that she ran afoul of the Bashayevs.

 

3. No bailout needed, promises Slovenia's new central bank chief

 

Economist Bostjan Jazbec will become the new Slovenian central bank chief 17 July amid a worsening banking and loan situation in the country, Reuters reports.

 

Bostjan Jazbec
Slovenia, a member of the euro zone since 2007, enjoyed robust growth until its export-driven economy floundered when global demand shrank during the financial crisis of 2008-2009. The economy fell back into recession last year due to continued poor export demand, a reduction in domestic spending, and an increase in bad loans, now amounting to 7 billion euros ($9 billion).

 

Jazbec told Reuters that there are no plans to close any banks, although he did not rule out closure in the future if the cost of running the failing banks exceeded the profit.

 

Jazbec also dismissed fears that Slovenia would follow the same bailout route that Cyprus took in March.

 

“Slovenia is still far from asking for international help,” he said.

 

Most Slovenian banks are state-owned, although Jazbec supports bank privatization as a way of stabilizing the banking industry, Reuters notes. The government plans to put Nova KBM, one of Slovenian’s largest lending banks, on sale in late 2013.

 

Jazbec’s first undertaking as central bank chief will be to supervise the transfer of $4.3 billion of bad loans into a “bad bank,” a process that has been delayed because of European Commission concern the central bank is underestimating the value of the toxic loans, according to Balkans.com.

 

4. Emotions run high at World War II remembrance events

 

Capping off a week in which Poles marked the anniversaries of several World War II atrocities, President Bronislaw Komorowski traveled to Lutsk, Ukraine, 14 July for a remembrance ceremony for the estimated 60,000 to 80,000 Poles killed by Ukrainian nationalists in 1943 and 1944, Euronews reports.

 

In 1943 forces of the anti-communist Ukrainian Insurgent Army began a campaign to “cleanse” Poles from the Volhynia region, now in western Ukraine but then in Polish territory. On one day alone, 11 July, the insurgents attacked 167 towns and villages.

 

Revenge attacks by Poles resulted in the deaths of 20,000 to 30,000 Ukrainians.

 

The mutual massacres and the postwar expulsions of about 150,000 Ukrainians from the area left a deep rift in Polish-Ukrainian relations for decades that was partly healed when the two countries’ presidents held a joint commemoration ceremony in 2003.

 

Feelings still run high, especially among conservative and nationalist groups in each country.

 

On 12 July, the lower house of the Polish parliament narrowly rejected a resolution backed by the conservative Law and Justice party to refer to the 1943-1944 massacres of Poles as “genocide.” The chamber instead approved the use of the phrase “ethnic cleansing with characteristics of genocide.”

 

Then, after the ceremony in Lutsk, a man identified as being from eastern Ukraine confronted Komorowski and broke an egg on his jacket. The man was arrested, Euronews reports.

 

Earlier last week, Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, and Piotr Kadlcik, the president of the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland, led a ceremony of reburial for victims of the Jedwabne pogrom.

 

Several hundred Jewish residents of the village died when their Polish neighbors herded them into a barn and set fire to it on 10 July 1941. Historian Jan Tomasz Gross’ 2001 book about the pogrom, Neighbors, aroused emotional debates about Polish participation in the Holocaust.

 

5. Prague police in wild boar chase

 

Guests at the Hilton Hotel near the center of Prague had a close encounter with Bohemian wildlife 14 July, when a wild boar broke a display window at the hotel, then fled toward the Old Town with police in hot pursuit.

 

Police managed to subdue the animal with tranquilizer darts after a two-hour chase that ended more than three kilometers away, a spokeswoman said, according to Aktualne.cz.

 

 

The boar was first spotted swimming across the Vltava River in the direction of the Hilton. After smashing the window, it fled and was captured by a CCTV camera running past a nearby train station.

 

The animal then reversed course and sped through residential areas east of the center.

 

Police caught sight of the animal “as it was running toward a woman with a baby carriage. A quick-thinking officer blocked its path with his motorcycle so that nothing happened to her,” the spokeswoman said.

 

Shortly afterward police cornered the animal in a garden. It attacked one officer three times before he was able to wrestle it to the ground. Police then turned the animal over to city forestry workers.

 

An introduced species, wild boars are common in Czech forests. Boars on roads and motorways have caused several accidents in recent years, Mlada fronta Dnes notes.

Ioana Caloianu is a TOL editorial assistant. Ky Krauthamer is a senior editor at TOL. Vladimir Matan and Molly Jane Zuckerman are TOL editorial interns.
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