Trial of suspected torturer begins

Three years ago, Nikola Vuckovic told CL that accusations he had been a sadistic Serbian soldier was a case of mistaken identity. On Monday, he had the chance to explain the mix-up in court. But he didn’t show.

Oct. 22 was the first day in the civil case against Vuckovic, who sought asylum in DeKalb County in 1997 and who is accused of torturing Bosnian Muslims in 1992.

Vuckovic’s attorney, Larry Pankey of Decatur, says his client returned to Bosnia months ago to visit his ailing mother, who has since died. Vuckovic has not returned.

U.S. District Court Judge Marvin Shoob, who is hearing the case in lieu of a jury, ruled that the trial would go on without him.

Vuckovic’s accusers are suing him because they had no luck in pushing the Department of Justice to bring criminal charges. The department cited a law that states war crimes committed prior to 1994 cannot be prosecuted by the U.S. government.

On Monday, one of the plaintiffs, Kemal Mehinovic, pointed to a photograph of Vuckovic that had appeared in CL and testified through an interpreter that the man in the photo is the same man who repeatedly knocked him unconscious with pipes and struck him in the testicles with a wooden baton. Mehinovic said Vuckovic had been a customer in the bakery Mehinovic owned.

Now, Mehinovic and other Muslim torture victims are looking for a judgment of millions of dollars — not in the hopes that they’ll ever receive the money but in an effort to hold Vuckovic accountable for his alleged atrocities.

The trial was expected to conclude Oct. 23. Judge Shoob will rule on the case in the coming weeks.??

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