Serbian Nationalists Rally for Hague Defendant Seselj

Supporters of Vojislav Seselj, leader of the Serbian Radical Party who’s on trial for war crimes, protested in Belgrade for his release from the Hague’s “tyranny”.Around 3,000 protesters gathered on Sunday in Belgrade to mark the tenth anniversary of Seselj’s voluntary surrender to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, where he is standing trial for alleged crimes committed during the 1990s war.

The protest, held under the slogan “Ten Years of Hague Tyranny and Ten Years of the Deterioration of Serbia”, gathered supporters of the Radicals from all over Serbia, who arrived in Belgrade in the early morning on buses.

Marching behind a huge blue banner reading “Freedom for Seselj”, they held up Serbian flags, symbols of the Chetnik movement and pictures of their leader’s face.

As they moved through the streets of central Belgrade, they chanted “Kosovo is Serbia”, “We are not giving up on Kosovo” and “Toma [Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic] is an Ustasha [Croatian fascist]”.

Vjerica Radeta, one of the Radical Party leaders, told the rally that the Hague Tribunal’s ideology was clear even before it acquitted Croatian generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac and Kosovo Liberation Army leader Ramush Haradinaj last year – verdicts which were seen by some in Belgrade as proof of the court’s ‘anti-Serb’ agenda.

“We note that [former Serbian Prime Minister] Zoran Djindic asked [former ICTY prosecutor] Carla Del Ponte to take Seselj to Hague and never return him to Serbia,” said Radeta, adding that Serbia’s current government is also “begging the ICTY to keep Seselj as long as they can”.

“When [the international community] realised they couldn’t destroy the Radical Party and Seselj, enemies of Serbia turned to recruiting his closest former associates,” said the deputy president of the Radicals, Nemanja Sarovic, referring to President Nikolic and current deputy prime minister Aleksandar Vucic, who were members of the Serbian Radical Party until 2008.

“Everyone knows that there is no evidence against Seselj. I am sure that he would be released if this court cared about justice,” Sarovic added.

Seselj surrendered to the ICTY in 2003, but his trial began in 2007, after several failed attempts and a hunger strike. Closing arguments in the case finished in March last year and the verdict is expected in July.

The ICTY filed charges against Seselj for persecution on political, racial or religious grounds, deportation and inhumane acts as well as for the violation of the customs of war during the conflict from 1991 until 1993.

According to the indictment, Seselj planned and ordered the ethnic cleansing of the non-Serb population from the territory which the Serbian authorities referred to as the Serbian Autonomous Region during the 1990s.

The territory consisted of Slavonija, Baranja and Western Srem, as well as parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Serbian province of Vojvodina.

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