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Tonawanda 
man held 
in falsifying
 war record
; Indictment mentions
Yugoslav massacre

A former Yugoslav security officer living in the Town of Tonawanda has been indicted on charges of using a fraudulent immigration document.

Zeljko Savija, 47, is accused of lying about his military and police service in the former Republic of Yugoslavia, although prosecutors stopped short of suggesting he had any role in war crimes there.

Savija obtained a green card granting him permanent residence in the United States by making false statements about his military service when he applied for the card, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert C. Moscati.

If convicted, Savija could face up to 10 years in prison, although he would likely get a much shorter term based on federal sentencing guidelines.

The indictment makes several mentions of the violence in Yugoslavia, especially the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica, but at no point suggests Savija was involved in any criminal activity at the time.

"Savija stated that he was not present during the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, as he was selling ice cream in Montenegro during the summer of 1995," the indictment says.

The Srebrenica massacre, also known as the Srebrenica genocide, refers to the July 1995 killing of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims, almost all of them males, during the Bosnian War.

The massacre later was described by the secretary-general of the United Nations as the worst mass murder on European soil since World War II.

The killings were the work of a Serbian Army led by then Gen. Ratko Mladic. He and other Serbian officers have since been indicted on charges of various war crimes at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, based in The Hague, Netherlands.

The indictment announced Thursday also alleges that Savija was in the Yugoslav military until 2001 despite his earlier claims to the contrary.

"Savija stated that he did not admit his prior military service because, in sum and substance, he was told that it was best not to mention," the court papers say.

Prosecutors noted that it's common for former Yugoslav military and police officials to minimize or lie about their service because of a fear that it might lead to increased scrutiny by immigration officials.

Savija's indictment is the result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement within the Department of Homeland Security.


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