UN tribunal frees ailing accused Serb war criminal Seselj

6th November 2014, Comments 0 comments

Serbian leader Vojislav Seselj was allowed to return home for cancer treatment on Thursday as he awaits a verdict at a UN court on alleged war crimes during the Balkan wars.

Judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) granted the release "due to the deteriorated health state of the accused and to give him the opportunity to get the treatment in the environment which would be the most appropriate," spokeswoman Magdalena Spalinska told AFP.

Seselj, accused of leading ethnic Serb volunteers in persecuting Croats, Muslims and other non-Serbs during the 1990s wars, underwent colon cancer surgery in December.

Serbia has said it would allow the return of the ultra-nationalist firebrand, who was repeatedly been found guilty of contempt during his trial.

Serbia earlier this month told the court that it was prepared to receive Seselj provided he accept the conditions of his release, which the Serb ultranationalist has previously refused to do.

But Spalinska said the ICTY had "not found it necessary to consult the accused whether he will accept these conditions as the judges deemed there was no reason to believe he would not respect such conditions".

Last month the 60-year-old Seselj's Radical Serb Party (SRS) lashed out at his treatment by the ICTY, saying cancer had spread to the 60-year-old leader's liver and called for his immediate release.

Seselj has pleaded not guilty to nine counts including murder, torture, cruel treatment and wanton destruction of villages.

Prosecutors said Seselj, a prominent radical politician, recruited and indoctrinated volunteers and paramilitaries, known as "Seselj's men" who committed atrocities during the two Balkan conflicts.

The ultra-nationalist leader voluntarily surrendered to the ICTY in 2003 and went on trial four years later.

He was in custody in the Netherlands.

Closing arguments came in March 2012, with the prosecution asking for a 28-year-sentence.

A verdict was expected in October last year, but hasn't come due to various delays.

The case was most recently postponed when Danish Judge Frederik Harhoff was pulled from the case after a private letter was leaked in which he criticised the ICTY and its president, US judge Theodor Meron.

A new judge was appointed in December last year and is in the process of reviewing the evidence before a final decision, which may still take many months.

© 2014 AFP

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