News 15 Apr 13

Seselj Allies Furious Over Postponed Hague Verdict

As The Hague Tribunal moved the war crimes verdict on Serbian Radicals’ leader Vojislav Seselj back to October, his party said it proved that he is a political prisoner.

Marija Ristic

The deputy head of Seselj’s Serbian Radical Party, Nemanja Sarovic, alleged that the International Criminal Court for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, was delaying its verdict because it wants to silence the nationalist leader and smooth Kosovo’s secession from Serbia.

The ICTY announced on Friday that the verdict will be delivered on October 30 this year; the court had first listed March 2013 as the date for the verdict, then June, and then July.

The closing arguments in the case against Seselj were delivered in March last year, during which the prosecution demaded a 28-year prison sentence for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“The aim of indictment against him, including his 11 years of detention, was to remove Seselj from the political scene, so that the enemies of Serbia can achieve their goals such as the recognition of Kosovo and Metohija [as an independent state],” Sarovic said on Sunday.

Seselj has been in custody since 2003, when he voluntarily surrendered to the Hague Tribunal, but his trial only started in November 2007, after several failed attempts and a hunger strike.

He is charged with committing war crimes and crimes against humanity against the non-Serb population in Bosnia, Croatia and the Serbian province of Vojvodina between 1991 and 1994.

According to the indictment, Seselj planned and ordered the ethnic cleansing of the non-Serb population from territory which the Serbian authorities called the Serbian Autonomous Region. The territory consisted of Slavonija, Baranja and Western Srem, as well as parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Serbian province of Vojvodina.

During his trial, Seselj has been convicted of contempt of court three times after he disclosed the identity of a protected witness on his website. In June last year, the ICTY sanctioned Seselj for the third time after his refusal to remove from his site four of his books and other documents which revealed information on protected witnesses connected to his war crimes case.

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