Serb nationalist's war crimes trial to resume

AP News
Posted: Nov 25, 2009 9:11 AM

Judges at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal have ordered the resumption of a Serb nationalist's trial almost a year after it was suspended amid claims of witness intimidation, the court announced Wednesday.

Vojislav Seselj is accused of plotting ethnic cleansing and inciting atrocities by Serb forces in Bosnia and Croatia as the former Yugoslavia crumbled in the 1990s.

The leader of the Radical Party in Serbia and a former ally of late-Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, Seselj has been in custody since he surrendered in February 2003. He vowed at the time to turn his case into a circus and has, at times, succeeded.

His trial started in November 2007 but was suspended last February when judges said witnesses could not "testify freely and in a safe environment."

Wednesday's statement said the trial will resume Jan. 12 after the judges found that "new facts have emerged which need to be taken into account." They did not elaborate.

They also said the trial had been on ice too long and indicated there was no immediate prospect of "a timely determination on the question of the allegations of interference with witnesses by the accused."

Seselj has repeatedly clashed with court officials, telling judges they reminded him of medieval inquisitors and describing a British lawyer's horsehair wig as a "bird's nest on his head."

He went on a hunger strike in late 2006 and boycotted the planned start of his trial, demanding that the tribunal grant him free choice of legal advisers, unrestricted spousal visits and an unconditional right to conduct his own defense. The trial was aborted and finally got under way in 2007.

Seselj was convicted last July of contempt of court for publicly naming a witness whose identity had been withheld by the court. He was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment, a largely meaningless punishment as Seselj had already spent more than six years in the court's detention unit.