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Serbian radical leader arrives in Belgrade after 12 years of absence

November 12, 2014, 21:59 UTC+3 BELGRADE
Vojislav Seselj was accused of inciting inter-ethnic strife and crimes against the non-Serbian population in Croatia, Vojvodina (Serbia) and Bosnia & Herzegovina during the Yugoslav wars in 1991-1993
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Vojislav Seselj

Vojislav Seselj

© EPA/ANDREJ CUKIC

BELGRADE, November 12 /TASS/. Vojislav Seselj, the leader of the Serbian Radical Party, returned to Belgrade on Wednesday after almost 12 years of absence.

Seselj, 60, surrendered to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia on February 24, 2003. He was accused of inciting inter-ethnic strife and crimes against the non-Serbian population in Croatia, Vojvodina (Serbia) and Bosnia & Herzegovina during the Yugoslav wars in 1991-1993.

On November 6, the Hague Tribunal agreed to temporarily release Seselj from custody and allowed him to return to his home country to undergo cancer treatment after Serbia had provided strong guarantees that he would be returned to the Hague at the first request.

The Serb radical leader is suffering from live metastases. In December 2013, Seselj was operated in the Netherlands for malignant tumour in the colon and underwent a course of chemical therapy.

Seselj’s supporters gave hero’s welcome to their leader. Hundreds gathered outside his home in Batajnica, a Belgrade outskirt, and near the headquarters of the Serbian Radical Party in Zemun, a district in the Serbian capital.

They waved flags with the party’s symbols chanting, “Serb Hero has Arrived”, “Long Live Serb WayWode”. Seselj went to the party headquarters straight from the airport. He said he had not asked The Hague Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia to release him. “The Hague brutally threw me out of the Scheveningen prison. I did not ask them for that while they did not put up any conditions. They just wanted to get rid of me,” Seselj said. He promised to return to The Hague Tribunal, which has failed to prove his guilt and pass a verdict.

Seselj called the Hague Tribunal a “beast created by globalization that destroys lives.” He added that the Tribunal tried Serbs only because they were Serbs, passed verdicts and sent them to prison without any evidence.”

Earlier on Wednesday, onboard of a plane to Belgrade, Seselj told Serbian journalists who were flying together with him from the Netherlands that his health was not of priority to him. The main aim is to revive the party, he stressed.

In his speech delivered from a window of his party’s headquarters, Seselj branded Serbia’s present leaders - President Tomislav Nikolic and Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic - as traitors. Both politicians had been members of the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party until 2008. Nikolic was the party’s vice-chairman while Vucic was its general secretary. They withdrew from the party in 2008 having changed their political stance.

Seselj has hit all records in terms of duration of his stay at the Hague Tribunal’s prison in Scheveningen / an area in The Hague, where the accused and convicts of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia are kept/ ever since the Tribunal was established by the United Nations on May 25, 1993.

Prosecutors demanded a 28-year-long prison sentence for Seselj. He, in turn, kept denying all accusations as a pile of lies. Seselj said the prosecutors could not present any real evidence of his complicity to the incriminated crimes.

The hearings of Seselj’s case ended in January 2010. The Hague Tribunal has been unable to pass a verdict on his case for almost 4 years.

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