Bosnian Serbs jailed for inciting riot

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The Independent Online

Fourteen Bosnian Serbs were sentenced yesterday to up to 13 months in prison for instigating a riot to block a ceremony marking the start of a local mosque's reconstruction.

Fourteen Bosnian Serbs were sentenced yesterday to up to 13 months in prison for instigating a riot to block a ceremony marking the start of a local mosque's reconstruction.

The men were found to have incited other Bosnian Serbs to disrupt the event at the Ferhadija mosque in Banja Luka, 80 miles north-west of the capital, Sarajevo.

The Banja Luka regional court judge, Mirela Jagodic, sentenced one of the defendants to 13 months, two to 12 and the rest to between two and five months in prison.

They were identified as the main instigators of trouble that broke out soon after the corner stone-laying ceremony began on 7 May 2001. As local leaders, diplomats and hundreds of Muslims gathered to watch, Bosnian Serbs encircled them and threw stones. One group broke through a police cordon and charged at the crowd.

Those attending the ceremony, including Jacques Klein, one of the highest-ranking international officials in Bosnia at the time, fled. A Muslim man was beaten and later died from his injuries, and buses and vehicles were set on fire as the nationalists rampaged through the streets.

The incident was one of the most serious attacks against Muslims since the end of the 1992-95 war. Then, most of Banja Luka's Muslims were expelled and all of the city's 17 mosques were destroyed, including the Ferhadija mosque, built in the 16th century.

International officials had organised the reconstruction project as part of efforts to promote reconciliation and the return of refugees.

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