UN judges refer Serb witness tampering case to Belgrade

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United Nations judges Wednesday referred the case of two Serbian lawyers accused of witness tampering during trials against radical Serb nationalist Vojislav Seselj to the Balkans country's national courts.

The Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) "orders the case against the accused to be referred to the authorities of Serbia for trial," judge Aydin Sefa Akay said in a court document.

The now-defunct International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) issued arrest warrants against Petar Jojic and Vjerica Radeta in January 2015 and the case has been dragging on ever since.

Jojic and Radeta are both defence lawyers and they were charged in December 2014 with "having threatened, intimidated, offered bribes to, or otherwise interfered with two witnesses" in two cases involving Seselj.

The wanted men now serve as deputies in Seselj's Radical Party in the Serbian national assembly in Belgrade.

A third suspect and former Seselj wartime associate Jovo Ostoijic died last year.

MICT judges in April found Seselj guilty on appeal of crimes against humanity and sentenced him to 10 years in prison, but he will remain free because of the time he has already served in detention.

Serbia earlier this year said it was "prepared to conduct criminal proceedings" against the defendants who said they were willing to be put on trial in their own country.

Belgrade added that immunity from prosecution for national assembly deputies "only applies for the votes cast and opinions expressed in the performance of their duties, but does not shield them from criminal proceedings," a court document stated.

Prosecutors however objected to the move, claiming that Serbia had "repeatedly and deliberately failed to cooperate with the ICTY" and that trials there would cause "real fear among prosecution witnesses."


© 2018 AFP

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