War crimes court says evidence proves Seselj guilt

AP News
Posted: Mar 05, 2012 11:40 AM
War crimes court says evidence proves Seselj guilt

Twenty years to the day after Serb ultranationalist Vojislav Seselj vowed "rivers of blood" would flow if Bosnia declared independence, prosecutors told a U.N. court Monday he was guilty of recruiting paramilitaries and whipping up hatred of non-Serbs to ensure his vow came true.

Seselj sat smiling in a Yugoslav war crimes tribunal courtroom as prosecutor Mathias Marcussen began summing up evidence presented at the marathon trial that started in 2007. He faces a maximum life sentence if convicted.

Prosecutors called 72 witnesses to underpin their allegation that Seselj was part of a criminal plot led by late Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to carve a new Serb superstate out of parts of the former Yugoslavia with a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

Seselj, 57, did not call any witnesses or mount any defense to the charges. He is expected to plead innocence in his closing statement next week.

Marcussen told judges that in a written summary that has not been released publicly Seselj denied ever cooperating with Milosevic.

Seselj surrendered to the court days after he was indicted in 2003, declaring his innocence and saying he would turn his trial into a circus.

He was then and remains head of the Serbian Radical Party. At the time he was taken into custody the Radicals were a powerful right wing bloc in Serbian politics, but they have since weakened following a split in their ranks in 2008.

Seselj's antics have made him a thorn in the court's side and delayed proceedings repeatedly, helping to make him the longest-detained suspect since the court was established in 1993.

He staged a hunger strike in 2006 that left him close to death and delayed the start of his trail. He repeatedly named witnesses whose identities were shielded by court orders, leading to two contempt of court convictions, and he often insulted prosecutors and judges, whom he has likened to the Spanish inquisition.

On Monday, he continued in the same vein, saying prosecutors should speak for only 60 minutes each, "because they are unable to talk sense for more than an hour at a time."

He then remained silent as Marcussen told the three-judge panel that Seselj's prediction of "rivers of blood" in Bosnia "became brutal reality" for one witness who survived a massacre by a notorious paramilitary militia known as "Seselj's Men."

The witness, identified only as VS1064, was shot and wounded in a string of summary executions that left his father and three brothers among 88 men killed and buried in a mass grave, Marcussen said.

At the heart of the prosecution case is the allegation that Seselj recruited and armed paramilitaries and used hate-laced speeches to incite them to commit atrocities in Bosnia and Croatia.

Marcussen called Seselj's firebrand speeches a "vicious and relentless campaign" that "denigrated and dehumanized non-Serbs."