Updated at 5:53 p.m. to reflect additional testimony.
Jurors heard more testimony Wednesday that a Bosnian refugee who settled in Burlington stood idly by while his comrade murdered two elderly women during the early 1990s Balkans war.
Edin Sakoc, on trial for allegedly concealing his involvement in a rape and two murders in Bosnia in his application for U.S. citizenship, stood quietly by while a friend gunned down two elderly women, Nadia Djuraskovic said in testimony shown to jurors in U.S. District Court this morning. Like all Bosnian witnesses in the trial, Djuraskovic testified last year in her home country, when American attorneys in the case flew over to conduct examinations and cross-examinations.
In the summer of 1992, Djuraskovic and her family were sheltering three Serbian women. Prosecutors allege that Sakoc raped one of the women after he removed her from the Djuraskovic home.
Then Sakoc and another soldier identified by authorities only as “Boban” returned to the home, according to court documents filed by prosecutors. [Sakoc and Boban were part of ethnic groups that were warring with the Serbs.]
Boban shot the women to death, Djuraskovic said.
While Boban fired the fatal shots, Sakoc, wearing a mask, watched impassively, according to testimony.
"He was standing by his side," Djuraskovic said.
"Was he saying anything?" asked Jay Bauer, a prosecutor from the Justice Department's Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section.
"No, nothing," Djuraskovic said.
Sakoc, (pronounced ‘Sah-coach’) then helped Boban carry the women's bodies outside, Djuraskovic said, and they set fire to the corpses.
"Did it appear to you that Sakoc was refusing to help?" Bauer asked.
"No, no. Both of them were doing it," Djuraskovic said, later adding, "It was simple for him."
But on cross-examination, Sakoc’s attorneys were able to punch holes in Djuraskovic’s story.
During interviews with both American and other investigators years before the trial, Djuraskovic apparently offered details that were inconsistent with testimony played yesterday.
In one interview, Djuraskovic said that Sakoc was not inside the room when Boban shot the women. Rather, she had said, he was in another room, and didn’t see the killings occur.
And during another interview, she said Sakoc was inside her home while Boban burned the bodies.
Under persistent cross-examination from public defender Steven Barth, Djuraskovic became testy.
“Please don’t provoke me,” she told Barth at one point.
As he watched the recording of the testimony, Sakoc sat quietly at the defense table, his face betraying no emotion.
Later in the day, prosecutors scored an important point: They were finally able to offer an eyewitness who could identify Sakoc as the masked man who allegedly participated in the kidnapping and killings.
The witnesses who previously testified about the killings and abduction didn’t know who Sakoc was. They referred to him simply as the “masked man,” and acknowledged that it was only after the events that they were told his identity.
“I had never known Mr. Sakoc,” Djuraskovic testified. “Neither do I know him now.”
But Blago Doko knew him.
Doko, who ran a local civil patrol in the village where the events occurred, had been alerted to the kidnapping of the woman from the Djuraskovic home. In response, Doko rounded up a few friends who were in the military. Together the men, all of whom were armed, began walking toward the Djuraskovic home.
En route, they stopped a car speeding toward them, away from the Djuraskovic home. Two men were inside the car, Doko recalled in his testimony.
The driver opened his door.
“We killed them,” the man told Doko, of the two women. The man then asked Doko if he recognized him.
“How can I recognize you when you have the [mask] on?” Doko recalled asking him.
He took the mask off.
“Do you recognize me now?” he asked.
“I knew him,” Doko recalled. “I had seen him before. He was younger than me. Edin Sakoc. Nicknamed ‘Edo.’ Everybody called him ‘Edo.’”
The trial is scheduled to resume in the morning, and continue into next week.