By Daria Sito-Sucic
SARAJEVO (Reuters) – Bosnian prosecutors said on Friday they would investigate Security Minister Dragan Mektic for revealing secret information and giving false statements related to a case of alleged recruitment of Bosnians by Croatian intelligence and diplomats.
Last month Mektic publicly confirmed a media report that Croatian intelligence officers had tried to recruit Bosnians who worked in EU countries to stash arms near mosques used by followers of the Salafi branch of Islam in Bosnia to show they were arming themselves. Croatia strongly denied the allegations.
Mektic said the operation was intended to prove allegations by Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic about a danger posed by “thousands of fighters returning to Bosnia from Syria and Iraq”. Mektic has repeatedly denied suggestions that radical Bosnian Muslims pose a significant terrorist threat to Europe.
The news site Zurnal, which published the report, said a Bosnian government official and a journalist linked with a Croatian diplomat serving in Bosnia had been involved in the recruitment drive.
Mektic said the government official and the journalist were relatives of Bosnian Chief Prosecutor Gordana Tadic, information later confirmed by the two men.
Tadic’s office promptly launched an investigation into the case and questioned all persons involved, including a Zurnal journalist and Mektic.
Earlier this week, the prosecutors cleared the officials who were allegedly involved in the affair, saying there was no basis to pursue their investigation.
But they will continue to collaborate on the matter with Croatia and Slovenia after the investigation unearthed new details in the recruiting case, the prosecutor’s office said.
The office said it would investigate Mektic because he had collected confidential information, distributed it to unauthorised persons and then given false statements both to the public and to the prosecution with “grave consequences for the security, rule of law and reputation of Bosnia and Herzegovina”.
Mektic, who has long criticised the prosecution for not tackling cases of serious crime and corruption, dismissed these allegations and accused the prosecution of being led by private interests in the investigation.
“This is a farce,” he told an urgently convened news conference, adding he did not expect anything to emerge from an investigation he said was devised “only to mislead the public”.
This week the European Union launched an initiative to monitor Bosnia’s law enforcement agencies and courts. The judiciary in ethnically-divided Bosnia has been long criticised as ineffective and subject to political pressure.
Bosnian Muslims generally practise a moderate form of Islam, but some have adopted radical Salafi Islam from foreign fighters who came to the country during its 1992-95 war to fight alongside Muslims against Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats.
(Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Gareth Jones)