- Associated Press - Thursday, October 30, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A Minnesota man accused of entering the U.S. and obtaining a green card illegally by concealing his military service during the Bosnian war - and omitting allegations that he killed a neighbor - is asking that the case against him be dismissed.

Zdenko Jakisa, 46, has pleaded not guilty to one count of possessing unlawfully obtained documents. Prosecutors say he got his permanent resident card illegally when he didn’t disclose that he had served in the armed forces of the Croatian Defense Council in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1990s or disclose his criminal past.

Jakisa was charged in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 1993 killing of a neighbor, Nevenka Elezovic. Prosecutors say he’s accused of other crimes as well, and authorities in Bosnia said earlier this year that he’s suspected of “war crimes against civilians” and wanted for questioning.

Jakisa, who lives in Forest Lake and runs a taxicab company with his wife, entered the U.S. as a refugee in 1998 and became a lawful permanent resident in 2002. He was indicted on the immigration fraud charge in April.

Jakisa’s attorney, Assistant Federal Defender Reynaldo Aligada Jr., said in court documents that prosecutors waited too long to charge Jakisa and the case should be dismissed.

Aligada wrote that to prove Jakisa lied to immigration officials, prosecutors also must prove he committed crimes in Bosnia 21 years ago. Aligada said a key witness in Elezovic’s killing has died and the gun allegedly used by Jakisa is not available - impairing Jakisa’s ability to defend himself.

Prosecutors argue the charge is timely. A hearing is scheduled for Friday in U.S. District Court in St. Paul.

At a hearing earlier this year, Michael Plotnick, a special agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations, testified that Jakisa killed his neighbor, a Serbian woman, in September 1993 by firing an AK-47 into her window.

Court documents show he was charged with causing general danger. He came to the U.S. while his case was pending and was convicted in absentia and sentenced to six months in prison.

Documents filed by prosecutors this week say two brothers also accused Jakisa of killing their parents, Ahmet Basic and Emina Basic, in 1993. However, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Petterson wrote that prosecutors don’t intend to bring up Jakisa’s alleged involvement in the Basics’ deaths because he hasn’t been charged.

According to a June 6, 2012, article in the Forest Lake Press, Jakisa and his wife applied to come to the U.S. in 1998 through the U.S. Embassy in Croatia. The article mentions Jakisa was required to serve in the military in Croatia’s 1991-95 war for independence from the Serb-led Yugoslavia.

“I lost tons of my friends,” Jakisa told the newspaper. “It was a bad war for nothing - just good for government people so they can still talk lies to their own people.”

More than 100,000 people were killed during the Bosnian war, which also turned half of the country’s population of 4.3 million into refugees.

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Follow Amy Forliti on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/amyforliti.

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