NEW YORK - A U.S. appeals court ruled on Wednesday that Bosnia's former ambassador to the United Nations cannot be extradited over allegations he misused government funds, reversing a lower court.
Muhamed Sacirbey, a U.S. citizen who was the face of Bosnia during the 1992-1995 war, served as Bosnia's first ambassador to the United Nations from 1992 to 2000.
The Bosnian government accused him of embezzlement and abusing his office but he was never charged, the appeals court found.
Bosnia sought Sacirbey's extradition in a formal request to the U.S. Department of Justice in 2002. The request was granted, and upheld in Manhattan federal court in 2006.
But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said on Wednesday that the Bosnian government had not met the standards for an extradition.
While ambassador to the United Nations, Sacirbey was one of the Bosnian government's main spokesmen during the war, describing the suffering of Bosnia's Muslims and calling for action against Serb forces. He also served as foreign minister in 1995 and 1996.
Sacirbey, 53, told Reuters in a telephone interview he has offered repeatedly to cooperate with Bosnian authorities but was rebuffed. He said he was the victim of retribution by his political enemies.
I always maintained that this was a way to undermine my credibility, Sacirbey said. To be vindicated in this fashion is not only an extraordinary personal relief but it really restores my confidence in the U.S. judicial system.
(Reporting by Edith Honan; editing by Daniel Trotta and Mohammad Zargham)