Serb leader Seselj's war crime trial to continue

4th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

The trial of Serbian ultra-nationalist leader Vojislav Seselj will continue after judges on Wednesday dismissed his application for acquittal on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

"The chamber rejects the accused's request," French judge Jean-Claude Antonetti said at The Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

"The trial chamber feels that there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable trial to continue at this stage and that there is a subtantial nexus between the acts of instigation by the accused and the crimes committed," Antonetti said in a 120-page verdict.

The Serb leader last month demanded his acquittal on the charges of war crimes as well as compensation for eight years of what he claimed was "unjustified detention".

Seselj, 56, went on trial in November 2006 for his alleged role in the persecution of Croats, Muslims and other non-Serbs and their expulsion from areas of Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia between 1991 and 1993.

Held at the UN detention centre in The Hague since surrendering in September 2003, Seselj demanded "damages and interest for more than eight years of unjustified detention," which he claimed had endangered his health and paralysed his political career.

Seselj, who is conducting his own defence, faces charges of persecution, inhumane acts, murder, torture, cruel treatment and the destruction of homes, cultural institutions and historic monuments.

Antonetti said Wednesday: "The chamber holds that there is sufficient evidence at this stage to reach the requirements... for a reasonable trial to convict the accused beyond all reasonable doubt for having instigated the commission of all the crimes in the... indictment".

The trial was suspended between February 2009 and January 2010 due to fears for the safety of witnesses that Seselj is alleged to have identified in a book he authored.

In a separate trial, he was convicted of contempt of court and sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment in July 2009 for endangering protected witnesses.

No date for the resumption of the warcrimes trial has been decided yet by the court.

© 2011 AFP

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