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Seselj Has An Audience Once Again

The trial of Serbian war crimes suspect Vojislav Seselj resumed this week at the UN war crimes court in The Hague after a year-long break due to the prosecution's concern about the reliability of some witnesses.

Seselj has been indicted on 15 counts of war crimes against non-Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia between 1991 and 1993, including torture, murder, and forced deportation carried out by his Serbian Radical Party's militia.

Last year, the presiding judge suspended Seselj's trial at the request of the prosecution, just days before it was to wrap up its case, because it feared that some witnesses were being intimidated.

In the meantime, Seselj was sentenced in July last year to 15 months in prison because he published the names of three protected witnesses in a book.

This week, there has been an interesting turnaround. Six witnesses that were originally on the prosecution's list said they now wanted to testify on behalf of the defense and will be questioned by the judges.

Seselj did not call any witnesses to testify before the court, as he has said he regards the prosecution's case as weak enough already.

Despite his incarceration, Seselj still has an influence on his political party in Serbia. He requested this week that he be given the right to hold a telephone conference with his party's supporters ahead of elections in a northern town, although the judges turned him down.

Seselj has a record of giving the court a hard time, before and during the trial began in late 2007.

In 2005, he wrote an obscenities-filled letter to the judges stating his contempt for the court, which he said he did not recognize as legal and legitimate. To the delight of his supporters, he read it aloud in the courtroom.

In 2006, he went on a 28-day hunger strike demanding that he be given the right to conduct his own defense, which he was granted in the end.

Expect more theatrics this time around.

-- Nedim Dervisbegovic

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