Ex lawmaker “surprised” by US decision to blacklist him

NEWS 29.05.2020 17:39
Source: N1

A former lawmaker and member of the ruling Bosniak party said he was “surprised” by the decision of the United States to blacklist him, accusing the US State Department of violating the presumption of innocence in his case.

Amir Zukic, a former MP in Bosnia’s Federation (FBiH) region and ex-top official of the Party for Democratic Action (SDA), was banned from entering the United States due to his “involvement in significant corruption,” according to a statement made by US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo.

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“In his official capacity (…) Zukic was involved in corrupt acts that undermined the rule of law in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Pompeo’s statement said.

With this, Zukic joined the ranks of Bosnian Serb officials Milorad Dodik, blacklisted for activities contrary to the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement, and Nikola Spiric, who was also blacklisted over corruption. None of them, or members of their immediate family, are allowed to enter the United States.

Zukic was arrested in 2017 along with his driver and several other officials on corruption charges. Prosecutors alleged that he and two other former top SDA officials had illegally secured employment for people in public companies in exchange for money.

The trial is ongoing.

Zukic called Thursday’s decision to ban him from entering the US a violation of “basic rights and principles of civilisation.”

“The presumption of innocence was violated as a basic, constitutional, international, legal right,” he said, arguing that his guilt has not been proven in court.

He argued that the presumption of innocence is part of the European Convention on Human Rights and Bosnia’s Constitution which supersedes all other laws, as well as that it is “an integral part of the US Constitution.”

“Not one first-instance ruling was handed down in the ongoing criminal proceedings against me and other defendants at the Sarajevo Municipal Court,” he said.

The former MP said that he suspected the decision was “indirect pressure on the court to hand down a ruling before the process is completed.”

He added that he has not been politically active in the past two-and-a-half years since he voluntarily resigned in order to not burden his party and to focus on proving his innocence.

“I don’t know why I was chosen,” he said of Pompeo’s decision. “When I resigned, I did not contact the US administration, nor the Embassy with a request to reside or travel (to the US),” he said.

“I am very surprised, especially since it comes from a country that respects the legal principle of presumption of innocence,” he said, adding that he will complain about the decision to the US Embassy and the US administration.