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Serb Army Deserter Faces Trial

May 18, 1999 GMT

CHICAGO (AP) _ To Enes Hadzovic, the issue is simple: Deport him to his home in Montenegro and he will die.

It doesn’t matter if he is ordered out of the United States immediately or allowed to remain until NATO stops bombing Yugoslavia.

When he returns home, ``they are going to kill me right away, no question about it,″ said Hadzovic, a 27-year-old construction worker who has been in the United States since deserting from the Serbian army in 1991.

On Friday, Hadzovic will try to persuade a federal immigration judge to grant him political asylum.


Hadzovic is among thousands of Eastern Europeans who seek asylum in the United States each year. Many are granted their request by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Those who are refused move to the U.S. Immigration Court, where 5,800 asylum cases involving Eastern Europeans were decided in 1998.

Hadzovic’s plight began in 1990 when he says he was ordered to join the Serbian army, which is comprised of soldiers from Serbia and Montenegro. Hadzovic said he and other ethnic Albanians were routinely forced into the army controlled by Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic.

Once in the army, Hadzovic said, he soon realized that Albanian Muslims like himself were often the first put in danger and killed.

Sometimes they simply disappeared.

``You’d see a friend today and tomorrow you see he is not here no more (and) nobody wants to talk about it,″ he said.

Then there was the army’s troubling demand: ``They wanted me to kill my own people,″ he said.

Hadzovic said that in 1991 he fled his homeland for Germany, where he bought a Belgium passport that enabled him to get to the United States. He went to the INS within a year to seek political asylum, and was finally interviewed last year, said his attorney, Christopher Helt.

Soon, Hadzovic received a letter informing him that his claim was ``deemed not credible″ because of inconsistencies between what he reported and what the agency knew about his homeland.

Although there was no further explanation, Helt said the interviewer ``couldn’t grasp the idea that the Yugoslavian government was taking its own military personnel and sending them to their death.″

INS officials declined to discuss Hadzovic’s case.

Helt hopes recent attention on Yugoslavia will bolster Hadzovic’s claims. Working in Hadzovic’s favor is that there ``is some pretty good recognition that the Yugoslav army was involved with some massive human rights violations,″ said Susan Gzesh, who teaches immigration law at the University of Chicago School of Law.

If he wins asylum, Hadzovic will join his brother, whom he said was granted asylum this year. Other family members remain in Montenegro.

Losing, however, won’t mean an immediate flight back to Montenegro. The appeals process could take years. And INS policy prohibits putting deportees in harm’s way, meaning no one will be deported to the region while NATO’s bombing continues, INS spokeswoman Gail Montenegro said.

Hadzovic, however, fears the Serb army more than NATO’s bombs. ``If the bombing stops, what’s that?″ he asked. ``They will still kill me.″

His attorney agreed.

``I can tell you right now if we lose I will tell him what the law says, but I will not recommend that he follow it,″ Helt said. ``If I do that it’s no different than me pulling the trigger.″