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MOSCOW, March 31 /TASS/. Political considerations are standing behind the ‘sensational’ acquittal of Vojislav Seselj, the leader of the Serbian Radical Party, by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the Russian Federation Council Committee for International Affairs, wrote on his page in Facebook on Thursday.
Kosachev said that acquittal is sensational only at first glance. "It really came as a sensation after the verdict to the former Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, who was convicted of genocide on 10 out of 11 charges and sentenced to 40 years in jail," the Russian lawmaker said.
According to him, Seselj’s acquittal on all the charges should not be regarded as an attempt to observe a kind of political, ethnic and national balance and show that not all Serbs are punished and that there are exceptions. "Though both [Radovan] Karadzic and Seselj are ethnic Serbs, they belong to different states. Karadzic represents the Serbian Republic [Republika Srpksa] in Bosnia and Herzegovina while Seselj represents Serbia," Kosachev explained.
"I assume that the West’s different attitude [to the two state entities] has had an impact on the final verdict: the West is carefully trying to convince Serbia that it needs closer integration with the Euro-Atlantic structures and is unwilling to provide opportunities for the European integration’s opponents [in Serbia]; on the contrary, the Serbian Republic in Bosnia continues to be an object of tough Western pressure," the head of the Russian Federation Council Committee for International Affairs said.
Kosachev also noted that Seselj had used his legal experience to his advantage. After his voluntary surrender to the ICTY, he brilliantly defended himself and became a tough customer for the local justice. With Serbia have elections soon, a tough verdict on the leader of the Serb radicals could have had a serious impact on the electoral outcome - something what the ICTY do not want to happen.
"So perhaps Seselj’s sensational acquittal is not that sensational," Kosachev concluded.
Earlier on Thursday, the ICTY cleared Seselj of all the charges, including 3 charges of committing crimes against humanity and six charges of violation of the laws and customs of war in the territories of Croatia, Vojvodina (Serbia) and Bosnia & Herzegovina in a period from 1991 to 1993.
Vojislav Seselj voluntarily surrendered to the ICTY on February 24, 2003 and spent almost 12 years in a pre-trial detention center in The Hague. He was operated for colon cancer in the Netherlands and underwent a course of chemical therapy in December 2013. Doctors later discovered metastases in his liver. In November 2014, the ICTY temporarily released Seselj and let him return to Serbia for health reasons.