June 26, 2015 / 7:04 PM / 2 years ago

Switzerland extradites Srebrenica's Muslim defender Oric to Bosnia

ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland extradited to Bosnia on Friday Naser Oric, the Muslim defender of Srebrenica against separatist Serb forces during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, Swiss and Bosnian officials said.

Former Bosnian Muslim commander Naser Oric, accused of killing Bosnian Serbs and destroying their villages, awaits his verdict at the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, June 30, 2006. REUTERS/ Zoran Lesic/Pool

The Swiss arrested Oric last week on the basis of a 2014 Serbian warrant for war crimes. Serbian and Bosnian Serb politicians have reacted angrily to the Swiss decision to extradite him instead to Bosnia, which says it is pursuing a similar case against him.

Bosnia’s war crimes prosecutor questioned Oric after his arrival in Sarajevo and found no reason to keep him in custody but he will face some restrictions on his movements, a spokeswoman for the Bosnian court said.

The prosecutor has asked the court to take measures barring Oric from contacting witnesses or other suspects in his case and obliging him to report to the police periodically, she said. The court will debate the measures on Monday, the spokeswoman said.

Serbia and the Bosnian Serbs say Oric’s men killed Serb civilians around Srebrenica during the war, before its fall to Bosnian Serb forces in 1995 that led to the killing of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys.

Oric, viewed by Bosnian Muslims as a national hero, was found guilty of war crimes in 2006 by a United Nations court in The Hague, but was acquitted on appeal in 2008.

The row over Oric has threatened to overshadow next month’s 20th anniversary commemoration of the Srebrenica massacre, which was the worst atrocity on European soil since World War Two.

Serbs continue to dispute the death toll at Srebrenica and say the whole event has become politicized, though investigators have painstakingly pieced together what happened in countless hours of testimony at a United Nations court in The Hague.

The divergence in views reflects the depth of division that continues to dog Bosnia and frustrates efforts to foster a sense of national unity.

Reporting by Joshua Franklin in Zurich and Maja Zuvela in Sarajevo; Editing by Gareth Jones

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