A Bosnian immigrant was convicted Wednesday on charges he concealed his role as an executioner during the 1995 Srebrenica massacre so he could get into the United States.
Marko Boskic, 41, was living in Peabody and working in construction when he was arrested on immigration fraud charges in 2004. He was charged with lying on his refugee application and later on his application to become a permanent U.S. resident.
A federal jury found Boskic guilty of two charges he concealed his military record on his applications.
It acquitted him on three other charges, including that he lied when he initially concealed his military service during a 2004 interview with federal officials, and that he lied on immigration applications when he was asked if he had ever persecuted or killed anyone on the basis of their race, religion, ethnicity or political beliefs.
Prosecutors said Boskic eventually admitted that he was a soldier in a Serb military unit and helped in the executions of 1,200 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica, where some 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were murdered in 1995 as part of ethnic cleansing by Serb separatists. It was the largest massacre in Europe since World War II.
Boskic's lawyer maintained he had been a prisoner in a Serbian concentration camp whose life was threatened if he didn't participate in the massacre.
Boskic faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison on each of the two document-fraud charges. He also faces deportation to Bosnia-Herzegovina.
"Obviously his defense was he did it under threat of death and it wasn't based on any ethnic cleansing," U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan said.
Boskic was not charged with war crimes. But during his trial, the jury heard testimony from two survivors of the Srebrenica massacre who described in chilling detail how soldiers herded hundreds of Muslims to a field, then lined them up in groups of 10 and shot them. The survivors said they hid under bodies and eventually escaped.
Prosecutors said Boskic listed his compulsory military service with the Yugoslav army on his immigration forms, but did not list his service with the 10th Sabotage Detachment, a notorious Serb military unit that participated in the Srebrenica massacre.
Defense attorney Max Stern told jurors Boskic, a Croatian and Roman Catholic, was also a victim of the warn-torn Balkans.
Boskic was held in a Serb concentration camp, forced to join the detachment, then ordered to participate in the mass execution of Muslims at Srebrenica on July 11, 1995. When he refused, a unit commander held a pistol to his head and threatened to kill him, his attorney said.
Stern said jurors believed Boskic did not act of his own will in the massacre.
"They totally accepted the fact that he was compelled to participate in the mass execution," Stern said.