Bosnian prosecutor to probe disputed Bosnian Serb referendum

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) " Bosnia's state prosecutor has issued a summons to Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik who initiated a Bosnian Serb referendum that was held in violation of the constitution, the prosecution office said Monday.

A statement from Chief Prosecutor Goran Salihovic said the case will be treated as a "priority," and a number of people will be called for questioning. His spokesman Boris Grubesic told The Associated Press that the summons has been sent to Dodik.

Once Dodik receives the invitation, he will have to appear before the prosecutor. If he refuses, the court police will be ordered to detain him.

Bosnian Serbs voted overwhelmingly Sunday to keep a disputed holiday that a constitutional court had said discriminates against non-Serbs. The court had also banned the referendum, which was organized by the local government in the Serb region of Republika Srpska.

Referendum organizers said that preliminary results showed 99.8 percent of voters in Republika Srpska were for the holiday and that turnout was 55.7 percent. Non-Serbs living in Republika Srpska mostly boycotted the vote.

During the 1992-95 war " which killed 100,000 people and turned half of the country's population into refugees " Bosniaks and Croats were persecuted and almost completely expelled from Republika Srpska's territory.

The region didn't gain independence after the war, but ended up as an autonomous part of Bosnia.

Bosniaks and Croats who returned there view the holiday as a celebration of their expulsion while Republika Srpska marks the day with religious ceremonies, hinting the region is still meant just for Serbs.

The West had called for the referendum to be canceled, but Russia backed the Bosnian Serbs. Western officials said they might consider halting projects in the mini-state or impose travel bans and asset freezes on their assets.

Dodik celebrated the result with thousands of people, fireworks and Serb flags late Sunday in Pale, the wartime capital of Republika Srpska.

"I'm so proud ... of all those who voted today, and I have to say: shame on all Serbs who did not show up at the referendum today," he said.

Opposition parties in Republika Srpska claim Dodik scheduled the vote a week before a local election to divert attention from campaign issues including corruption and poverty.

"Obviously this was a pre-election gathering," which cost taxpayers 750,000 euros ($840,000) and only served the interests of Dodik's party, said Bosnia's foreign minister, Igor Crnadak.

Bosnian Serb authorities said they plan to change their law on holidays in line with the constitutional court's ruling, most likely so that the holiday stays but those who don't want to celebrate don't have to.

Even if this solves the dispute over the holiday, the referendum itself defies the constitutional court's ban and violations of the constitution can be punished with a jail term of up to five years.

Dodik previously said he will not respond to the prosecutor's invitations. Last year, he initiated another referendum on the jurisdiction of the Bosnian state court and prosecution on the territory of the Bosnian Serb autonomous region.

Although the Bosnian Serb parliament approved that referendum, Dodik never signed the act.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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