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Seselj Asks for Court Aid

Serbian politician says he needs assistance to pay for legal advisers in new contempt trial.
By Rachel Irwin
  • Vojislav Šešelj. (Photo: ICTY)
    Vojislav Šešelj. (Photo: ICTY)

Serbian nationalist politician Vojislav Seselj this week asked for court financial aid to assist him in calling ten witnesses to testify in his upcoming contempt trial.

Seselj, who faces parallel criminal proceedings, is charged with revealing details about protected witnesses in a book he authored. He was convicted on similar charges in July 2009 and sentenced to 15 months in prison.

The current contempt trial was stalled for several months while a special panel of judges considered Seselj’s request to disqualify two of the judges set to hear the case against him. That request was recently rejected and the proceedings can now move forward.

Seselj – who represents himself - said he was prepared to start the contempt trial in early January.

“I intend to call witnesses who will confirm that it was them who disclosed their identity, it wasn’t me,” Seselj said, adding that these witnesses would testify that the prosecution forced them to sign false statements.

He also requested financial aid from the court registry in preparing his case.

“Since I will be calling ten witnesses I will need the assistance of legal advisers,” he told Judge Burton Hall, who presided at this week’s hearing.

Seselj said these advisers would need to be flown to The Hague and provided with hotel accommodation and a per diem. The registry previously rejected Seselj’s request for financial aid in his trial, stating that he repeatedly failed to provide documentation proving he is indigent.

When Bruce MacFarlane, the independent prosecutor assigned to the case – known as the amicus curiae – requested that one of his colleagues be allowed to address the court during the trial, Seselj objected.

“Not every clerk from [MacFarlane’s] technical team should be given right of audience,” he contended. “How come he chose her? Why must they both be Canadian? Why should I be forced to listen to two Canadians?”

MacFarlane called Seselj’s remarks “offensive”.

“It’s always unfortunate when people use the opportunity of being in court to make personal offensive comments of this nature,” Judge Hall noted.

A precise date for the second contempt trial has yet to be set.

Arrested in 2003, Seselj is charged with nine counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity – including murder, torture and forcible transfer – for atrocities carried out in an effort to expel the non-Serb population from parts of Croatia and Bosnia between August 1991 and September 1993. He remains leader of the Serbian Radical Party, SRS, based in Belgrade.

Rachel Irwin is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.