February 26, 2015 / 3:53 PM / in 3 years

Senior Bosnian judge arrested on suspicion of taking bribe

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - A senior Bosnian judge has been arrested on suspicion of taking a bribe, the prosecutor’s office said on Thursday, in the first case of corruption to involve a member of the judiciary in the Balkan country.

Appeals judge, Azra Miletic, was arrested late on Wednesday and two other people, whose sentences for organized crime and drug-dealing had been greatly reduced on appeal, were arrested on the same grounds. One was a former police officer.

The court declined Reuters request for a comment from Miletic.

Bosnia is under pressure from the European Union, which it wants to join, to strengthen its judicial system and crack down on the organized crime and corruption that has flourished in the almost 20 years since the country’s 1992-95 war.

Fierce civil unrest in February last year was spurred by popular anger against the political elite, which is perceived as corrupt and getting rich while the country trails its former Yugoslav peers on the road to EU membership.

The president of the state court, Meddzida Kreso, said it was vital that the arrest did not destroy the credibility of a court that deals with cases of war crimes and organized crime, and has repeatedly been the target of political criticism.

“It is my responsibility to protect the integrity of this institution in this difficult moment as well as all judges whose work will probably now come under special public scrutiny,” she told a news conference.

“This case is an expression of our determination for a general fight against crime and corruption,” Kreso said. “Our work till now must not be brought into question.”

Miletic’s lawyer, Vasvija Vidovic, told the Sarajevo Klix news website, that “Miletic was the best judge in Bosnia and the most honest person among judges, as far as I know. That’s why I decided to defend her.”

Editing by Matt Robinson and Louise Ireland

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