Bosnian court convicts hotel owner for pilgrimage extortion

A Bosnian court has sentenced an Italian citizen to one year in prison after he confessed to being part of a group that extorted money from foreigners escorting pilgrims to a Catholic shrine.

The court imposed the sentence after finding Luca Cobre, the manager of a hotel in Medjugorje, guilty of organized crime.

Medjugorje is a small village where a shrine marks the apparitions of the Virgin Mary that six young people saw in 1981.

The extortion group allegedly threatened to close Italian tourist agencies or non-governmental organizations in Medjugorje and expel their owners if they did not pay. Its members also allegedly tried to force pilgrimage tour operators to rent their hotels.

The other alleged group members, who include local government officials, pleaded not guilty and are on trial.