News 12 Nov 14

Vojislav Seselj Returns to Serbia After 11 Years

Hundreds of supporters welcomed nationalist leader Seselj, who is on trial for war crimes at the Hague Tribunal, as he arrived in Belgrade after being temporary released for cancer treatment.

Milka Domanovic, Marija Ristic
BIRN
Belgrade
Seselj in his party HQ in Zemun. Photo by BIRN.

The Serbian Radical Party leader was greeted by several hundred people chanting his name, holding up his picture, waving Serbian flags and singing nationalist songs when he arrived at Belgrade airport on Wednesday.

“I promised I would beat the Hague Tribunal and I did, even though the fight took longer than I expected,” Seselj said in a speech on the terrace of his party headquarters afterwards.

“The Hague Tribunal is the wounded beast of globalisation, which destroyed the lives of Serbian leaders, army and police commanders. Our honourable generals just defended Serbia,” he added.

He concluded his speech by declaring: “Long live Greater Serbia.”

As well as his admirers, Seselj was also welcomed at the airport by his family, party officials and members of the Serbian far-right organisation Obraz, while police maintained tight security.

One Seselj supporter at the airport, Bora Tomic, told BIRN that he expected the nationalist leader “to lead the rebellion against capitalism, globalisation and all the other bad things in this world”.

Seselj supporters at the airport. Photo by BIRN.

“We expect all problems to be solved once he arrives,” said another, Nenad Savkovic.

Seselj is returning for cancer treatment after being in custody for more than 11 years at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, where he is standing trial for war crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia.

His party is also planning a major welcome-home rally on Saturday in Belgrade’s central Republic Square, where it is expected that the nationalist leader will speak.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia on Thursday granted conditional release to Seselj on humanitarian grounds, citing the serious deterioration of his health as one of the main reasons. He was diagnosed with cancer last year.

According to Nemanja Sarovic, a Serbian Radical Party official who was travelling with Seselj from The Hague, some 50 Dutch police officers escorted them to the airport where the politician got on the plane.

The Serbian government has provided security guarantees to enable Seselj to return, promising that he will have no contact with witnesses or victims and will return to The Hague for the verdict in his trial.

“The government is ready to do whatever is requested,” justice minister Nikola Selakovic told to public broadcaster RTS.

“I am sure Seselj will go back when needed for the verdict,” he added.

Photo by BIRN

Seselj has remained defiant throughout his detention in The Hague and has been reported as saying that he will seek “revenge” when he returns to Serbia.

“If I come to Serbia, I am not going to spend time on treatment; I will put all my efforts into revenge,” media reported him as saying last week.

He has been in custody in The Netherlands since 2003, when he voluntarily surrendered. The verdict in his war crimes case was scheduled for October last year, but was postponed after one of the judges in the trial was removed for alleged bias.

The new judge is expected to take until at least the end of June 2015 to familiarise himself with details of the case, causing yet another delay in the marathon trial.

New judge Mandiaye Niang opposed Seselj’s conditional release, arguing that the nationalist politician might not respect the release conditions and arguing that he had “refused to provide such guarantees” in the past.

Niang also argued that a monitoring system should have been imposed on Seselj to ensure that he does not contact victims and witnesses. However the other two judges on the trial panel outvoted him.

Photo by BETA.
Photo by BETA
Photo by BETA
Seselj's supporters in front of his HQ in Zemun. Photo by BIRN
Seselj and his supporters in front of party HQ in Zemun. Photo by BIRN

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