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Suspended Seselj War Crime Trial To Resume

Vojislav Seselj on trial in The Hague
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) -- The war crimes trial of Serbian nationalist Vojislav Seselj will resume in January, nearly a year after it was suspended due to concerns about the reliability of some witnesses, the tribunal ruled today.

Seselj's trial for murder, torture, and persecution of non-Serbs in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s was suspended in February after prosecutors said the case was compromised by threats against a witness.

Seselj, who has pleaded not guilty, faces life in prison for inciting violence against Bosnians and Croatians as head of the Serbian Radical Party. He faces 15 counts for crimes committed between 1991 and 1993, including torture, murder, and forced deportation of non-Serbs by his party's militia.

Seselj was convicted in July of contempt of court for revealing the identity of three protected witnesses in a book he admitted authoring.

After six prosecution witnesses said they wanted to testify on behalf of the defense instead of the prosecution, the court decided that the witnesses would be called to testify by the judges rather than either side.

In its decision to resume the trial, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia also decided that it could not keep Seselj, who has been detained since 2003, in custody any longer without infringing his rights.

"In light of the new facts in the possession of the Chamber...[and] the length of time which has gone by since the decision was rendered, the Chamber considers it appropriate to put an end to the adjournment of the hearing of the remaining witnesses and orders a resumption of the hearings," said the presiding judge, Jean-Claude Antonetti, who had dissented in the original decision to suspend the trial.

The trial will resume in The Hague, on January 12, 2010.

The court mentioned it was taking other steps to "ensure an efficient protection of the security of the victims and witnesses" but did not disclose details in order to protect them.