used without permission, for "fair use" only

Muhamed Cengic and Saja betrayed Foca

by Senad Pecanin

Dani, Sarajevo, Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina, B-H, August 20 1999

Alija Podrug is a member of one of the largest and saddest refugee populations in Bosnia - the refugees from Foca. His personal drama testifies about the extent of betrayal, greed, looting, irresponsibility, incompetence, and extra-legal status of Halid Cengic, Senad Sahinpasic Saja and Muhamed Cengic. The three of them, with support from Alija Izetbegovic, doomed tens of their most devoted followers and thousands of inhabitants of Foca who trusted the Party of Democratic action (SDA) and its leaders

HOW SAJA BEAT ME UP: Two years ago I was making in Ustikolina, as a representative of the Party for Bosnia-Hercegovina (SzBiH), a list of houses that hadn't been repaired in spite of all donations (these houses haven't been repaired until today) because their members had left the Party for Democratic Action (SDA). One day, I was sitting in Smajo Cengic's pub in Ustikolina. I did not fear anyone's attack. However, someone hit me on the back, I do not know with what, and fell on the floor. Witnesses later told me, because I had fainted, that Saja had run out of his jeep and kicked me in the mouth. I was all bloody. When I came back I reported the attack to the Police. I told them that as a local representative of the Foca municipality, a person with legal immunity, I had been beaten up in my own municipality. Esef Mulahasanovic, the local Police chief still has that report. He hasn't done anything since than to find the perpetrators. All that was happening when a red warrant for Saja had already been issued by Interpol. However, Mulahasanovic put that warrant away. When I went to Sarajevo, I went to see my president [i.e. president of SzBiH] Silajdzic. He did not want to see me in his office but instead talked to me in the hallway. He had already been informed and asked me to tell him what had happened. "Good," he said. I found out ten to fifteen days later that Saja had already been to see Silajdzic and that he had told him: "It is true that we beat him up and we shall beat up Alija Podrug again."

ABOUT SAJA'S WEALTH: Saja can tell stories about his wealth dating before his membership in SDA only to people who are not from Foca. It is not true that he was wealthy. I was a wealthy person in comparison with him. I was the first person to own a truck in Foca. I bought it in 1967. After me, Smajo Bekto brought a truck from Germany, a Mercedes. Halid Jusufovic drove that truck for him. He is still alive and has a photo of Saja loading gravel for us in Sastavci. He worked the whole day for us and I would pay him hundred dinars [the currency of the former Yugoslavia]. See how wealthy he was before the war. After that, he bought a 2CV Citroen. He lost the door on the car, so that the Police chased him around for a while because of that. Until he joined the party, his biggest profit came from the sale of Vuk Draskovic's books. Knife was a bestseller. That was his first success. When he got married, his father in law bought him a grocery store, so that he would not have to sell watermelons and peppers on a concrete stall, as he had done until then. After the founding of SDA, the mosque near cafe "Bor" became his main storage room. He made his first large profit by selling drinks and food at SDA rallies. Muhamed Cengic gave him an exclusive contract for that. However, he made most money working with Mate Boban who was at the time a representative in the lower chamber of the parliament of Bosnia-Hercegovina. They smuggled together fuel and weapons from Croatia. We didn't know at the time why we tied Croatian and Muslim flags together in Pijesak during a SDA rally. Then Saja brought over Barba, Mate Boban's father. He set near Izetbegovic. I still have that videotape. You can see everything on it. Saja's sister (she died recently) was married to Boban's cousin Zlatko. Now Saja is fighting with him about a bank. All the looting went through Saja and Boban. The lowest price for the weapons Saja was selling in Foca was DM 1,200. He had a seemingly inexhaustible supply of weapons and was selling them as he pleased, including Serbs. Slavo Ivanovic was killed by people with whom Saja today cooperates, in order to hide weapons smuggling channels. Halid Cengic was selling Kalashnikovs with plastic butts. He had a lot of them left in secret buried caches, because he would not give them to people who couldn't pay. Later, he claimed that people from the Foca region had not wanted to fight. That is not true! Two buses full of people from Gorazde arrived to Foca to help us in fighting, but Halid Cengic sent them back. He said: "Say a prayer and head back.". On April 15 1992 I arrived wounded to Ustikolina. He hugged me and said: "Major, you fought well!" I started crying and asked him: "Who has betrayed us, Halid?" At that moment, the phone rang. They told me that he was talking to Alija [Izetbegovic]. I asked him: "Who is now our commander in Ustikolina?" He said: "Alija has just told me that Dzemo Omerbasic is the commander." I shouted: "Woe is us! In Foca we were led by a grocer and it fell after ten days. Now in Ustikolina we are led by a tractor driver Dzemo, and is will fall also." And that's how it turned up to be. But it was not his fault. It is now clear that Halid Cengic made all decisions. He prevented us from firing a bullet in Ustikolina. Had he not picked up his loot, put it on a tractor and drove away to the village of Zeljevo and later to Jabuka, we could have taken the barracks.

WE SHALL NOT RETURN TO FOCA: We shall not return to Foca nor to eastern Bosnia as long as these people are in power. Halid Cengic appointed Ibro Poplata to take all power in the Foca region, allegedly based on Alija Izetbegovic's decree, and that's how it is until today. Poplata was born in the village of Jabuka. He is not from Foca nor has it ever been a member of SDA in Foca. After the elections SzBiH tried with young, capable engineer Abid Borovina. He took over and worked for a month. He immediately established contacts with the Serb authorities in Foca and started working out agreements regarding two-directional return of refugees. However, Halid Cengic showed up with an alleged decree from Alija Izetbegovic and he immediately dismissed Borovina and appointed Poplata in his place. And while he is in power, not a single Serb will be able to return to Ustikolina. It is true that one Serb house was rebuilt in Ustikolina, but it was set on fire as soon as it was completed. It is well known who set it on fire. However, no one ever charged that man with arson, although even the Police Chief knows who did it. People from Foca believe in a return to their town, but we shall never return as long as Halid Cengic rules. Just consider the Dayton agreement: it simply put a fence around Halid Cengic's land. That was a circus: not a single foot of his land ended up in the other entity. The border did not follow hills, nor the Kolina River, nor any other natural feature. The division was done in the way that demonstrated Cengic's power. Serbs also want to come back, but Halid-bey wants to enjoy his castle in peace. If Serbs returned to their Odzak, we could return to Foca. When they put me in jail I was the chief of security in the power plant in Kakanj. Halid Cengic sent his men and they drove away the same day all "Hidrogradnja" machinery (I worked for that company before the war), thousand liters of gasoline, two thousand liters of fuel oil, ten barrels of machine oil. They drove all of that away to Visoko in order to build an airport. None of that was ever paid for. I cannot find a job anywhere and still haven't received fifteen salaries from "Hidrogradnja". Let them, Mehmed Drino and engineer Mehmed Sukalo charge Halid with everything he took away.

I AM DISSAPOINTED BOTH IN SILAJDZIC AND IN SDA: When we got disappointed in SDA, a group of us - Ferid Buljubasic, Muhamed Podrug, Idriz Kamenica, Safet Jahic, my brother Salko and I - we all went to see Silajdzic, while he still had an office in "Unis". We told him that we would all join his party if he did not form a coalition with SDA. He promised that he would never form a coalition with SDA. He cheated us. And I left SDA because of injustice. Finally, it is becoming clear what SDA is: corruption, looting, and thievery. I have nothing today, and I had the best store in Foca, a truck and two expensive cars. I still have a receipt from Simo Cosovic that in 1991 I took a solid fuel stove to Halid Cengic. Halid still hasn't paid for that stove. Please, in 1991 he could not pay for a stove and today he owns airplanes?! SDA office was in my house, I was the chief of security. Halid knows that I used to bring oranges [i.e. expensive fruit] to our meetings, while he only brought once a bag of apples from Odzak. The meeting at which they managed to convince Fikret Abdic to give up his place in the presidency to Alija Izetbegovic took place in my house. Ganic was urging Fikret to allow Alija to settle his accounts with those who had put him in jail. Then Fikret said that he would give up his seat on the Presidency to Alija for a year, and his kept his word.

I INFORMED IZETBEGOVIC ABOUT EVERYTHING: When I was wounded and finally arrived to Hrasnica, I called Izetbegovic to tell him about everything as a SDA representative from the Foca Municipality. He said that I should send him a fax and that he would think about it. I sent him a fax from "Merhamet" in Hrasnica. I still have the original. I wrote that Foca had been betrayed by Muhamed Cengic and Senad Sahinpasic, the commander of the defense of the town. Foca fell in ten days, Sajo betrayed it and ran away. He left the people to the mercy of the aggressor. Honest people perished. Since my head was pierced by a piece of shrapnel, I had to go to a hospital. In Visoko I met Halid Cengic. He told me:"You ran away at Grepak!" I told him: "Where did you ran away from? From Ustikolina! You are a representative like myself. Should you not be put in jail? You ran away just like Saja. What are you doing in Visoko?" I even had a permit from Alija Izetbegovic to get weapons from Cengic for volunteers for Foca. He gave me two uniforms and ten hand grenades. He made a slip of tongue and said: "Saja says that we should not give you anything!" When I left his office, he called those from the Seventh Muslim Brigade and told them that I should be detained because "[I] know a lot and have been writing something" and have sent a letter to Alija Izetbegovic, and who gave me the right to write such letters. They kept me in jail in Zenica under charges that I had served with the enemy army. I have a witness, a policeman from Rogatica. He said that he was prepared to testify in court that Halid said:"Put him in jail and beat him up a bit. He knows everything and has begun to write about it." And I wrote to Alija who betrayed Foca. Now, let then haul me to court if they wish. Everyone in Foca knows what Saja did, how he got rich, so that he can now build those castles. Why hasn't he built a mosque in Ustikolina [prior to destruction the oldest mosque in Bosnia-Hercegovina]? Until this day there is rubbish among the ruins. Halid's nephew Rijad Rascic said at a meeting of the Association of Displaced Persons and Refugees in Gorazde:"It is not true that that is Saja's residence. That is the official residence, property of the Foca municipality." I replied:"That is not true, Mr. Governor. That is Saja's property and only you, Ibro Poplata, Bakir Izetbegovic and Bakir Alispahic can go there." I don't have meetings with these people. As a representative of the Foca municipality I cannot even have a coffee there. Everyone knows who is enjoying that residence, planting watermelons, driving a motor boat... Where does the money for that come from? And we, the inhabitants of Foca, besides all our property, now live all over the world and can only watch.

Translated on 11/24/1999