A radical Muslim leader pleaded not guilty in a Bosnian court Monday to charges of inciting terrorism for having encouraged his followers to fight alongside terrorists in Syria and Iraq.
The radical cleric, Husein Bosnic, was arrested last year and charged with urging followers to leave for Syria and Irak to fight with Islamic terrorists when he preached in several Bosnian towns in 2013 and 2014.
"I understood the indictment …. and I plead not guilty," the the 42-year-old imam told the Sarajevo tribunal.
A date for the start of Bosnic's trial has not yet been set, but the case will be the first in the Balkan country trying a defendant for inciting terrorist activities.
Bosnic, from the northwestern town of Buzim, was arrested as part of a large security operation targeting suspected jihadists last September and November.
A total of 26 suspects were detained at that time, but with the exception of Bosnic all were either released or placed under house arrest. Several are suspected of having fought alongside radical terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria.
Last year Bosnia adopted a law calling for sentences of up to 10 years in prison for jihadists and their recruiters.
According to intelligence estimates published by Bosnia's media, some 200 Bosnian citizens have fought with terrorists in Iraq and Syria. Around 30 have been killed, and some 40 are believed to have returned.
Bosnia's Muslims make up 40 percent of the Balkan country's 3.8 million inhabitants, and the vast majority practice a moderate form of Islam.
During the 1992-1995 war between Bosnia's Croats, Muslims and Serbs, however, a large number of Islamic volunteers from abroad flocked to the country, where many stayed on.
AFP contributed to this report.