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US judge weighs extradition of ex-Bosnian military policeman

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A magistrate judge will decide if a former Bosnian military policeman now living in Missouri should be sent back to face war crime charges for allegedly raping an imprisoned pregnant Serbian woman during the Bosnian war in the early 1990s.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia Cohen on Tuesday gave the attorney for 58-year-old Adem Kostjerevac 30 days to file a response to the extradition request. Cohen is expected to rule in December. Kostjerevac, who has lived in St. Louis County for 17 years, didn't speak during the hearing, but he cried before it began as his attorney, Kayla Williams, quietly comforted him.

According to a court filing outlining the extradition request, Kostjerevac was indicted in Bosnia in 2015 for "war crimes against civilians." The request wasn't made until August. Kostjerevac served with the army of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The extradition document alleges that he repeatedly raped the woman, who was a neighbor of his, following her arrest in September 1992, causing her to have a miscarriage.

According to the court filing, she weighed just 81 pounds (37 kilograms) when she was released in a prisoner exchange in February 1993. She has been suicidal at times since her captivity and suffers from "sub-depressive signs and intrusive fear," the request states.

Williams said she will argue that the victim was mistaken in identifying Kostjerevac as her assailant. She said after the hearing that the woman said she was assaulted by a man with a mustache, which Kostjerevac didn't have. She also cited a nickname for the assailant that Kostjerevac did not use.

"The biggest issue is identification," Williams told the judge. Kostjerevac doesn't deny knowing the woman, but he told FBI agents that he never raped her and that he saw her just once while she was in custody, the court filing states. Kostjerevac said he actually gave her food and protected her when others tried to kill her.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Ware said that much of the Bosnians' case against Kostjerevac is built on the victim's statements. "I think it's fair to summarize this as a he-said-she-said incident," Ware said.

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