PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – The Justice Department lobbied two federal courts Wednesday to strip citizenship from people it says committed war crimes as former members of the Bosnian army.
The two former soldiers murdered civilians during ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia, according to the lawsuits. They obtained U.S. citizenship by hiding their participation in the 1993 Trusina massacre, when they were part of a firing squad that executed six unarmed prisoners, the government claims.
Sammy Rasema Yetisen aka Zolja, 45, shot the civilians a second time to ensure they were dead. Edin Dzeko, 46, killed a disabled elderly man, and then gunned down the man’s wife because she was crying. Along with fellow members of the elite Zulfikar Special Forces Detachment, they killed 22 unarmed ethnic Croatians that day and seriously wounded four others, according to the Justice Department.
The pair obtained refugee status and later became U.S. citizens by hiding their military history and roles in the massacre, according to the lawsuits.
U.S. attorneys filed a complaint to revoke Yetisen’s citizenship in federal court in Oregon, where she lives. Yetisen pleaded guilty to war crimes and testified against Dzeko in a Bosnia court in 2012, before serving a 5-year prison sentence. She returned to the U.S. after her release.
The lawsuit to strip Dzeko’s citizenship was filed in federal court in the District of Columbia. Dzeko remains in prison in Bosnia and Herzegovina, serving a 13-year sentence.
U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions said the lawsuits were part of his agenda to crack down on crime and immigration fraud.
“War criminals will find no safe haven or shelter within the United States,” Sessions said in a statement. “This is especially true for those who fraudulently obtain U.S. citizenship. For too long, we have tolerated egregious fraud in our refugee program, our immigration system, and the naturalization process. This administration will hold alleged fraudsters accountable.”