Ex-party chief gets three years in prison for corruption in Bosnia

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A court in Bosnia has sentenced a former top ruling party official to three years in prison for corruption.

Amir Zukić, former secretary-general of the ruling Bosniak Party of Democratic Action, SDA, was convicted on Friday of using party connections and bribes in 2016 to secure people jobs in state-run institutions, the Klix news portal reported.

The Sarajevo Municipal Court sentenced four others to prison terms of up to six years and acquitted two people in the case. 

Another case against a sixth accused, Mirsad Kukić, a former member of SDA and founder of PDA, was separated from the main trial due to concerns over Kukić’s health. He was sentenced to one year in prison for corruption in late 2020.

The trial was part of Western-backed efforts to curb graft in the Balkan nation of some 3,5 million, which continues to struggle to recover politically and economically from a devastating 1990s war.

The verdicts can be appealed.

In 2020, the US State Department barred Zukić from entering the country for his alleged involvement in “significant corruption”. 

Another official blacklisted by the US this year, former lawmaker Sarajlić, was acquitted in the trial that ended Friday, Klix said.

Sarajlić was one of SDA’s vice-presidents until an audio recording surfaced of him and others allegedly fixing the local intra-party election in 2020. He remained a party member, however, while Zukić has been ostracised since.

After the Friday sentencing, Zukić’s attorney claimed that the court “succumbed to political pressures” — something his defence has claimed since the beginning of the investigation against him. 

Beliefs he was being targeted were further emphasised after the death of his horse under suspicious circumstances, which the domestic law enforcement authorities deemed to have been “equine suicide”.

The US, the UK, and other Western countries have imposed sanctions on individuals who are perceived as undermining the rule of law and stability in the Balkans.

The country remains unstable and ethnically divided, and the international community’s increased presence in the past months is believed to have been triggered by Russia’s efforts to increase its influence in the region.