Serb nationalist Seselj berates court that cleared him of war crimes

Serbian nationalist leader Vojislav Seselj on Thursday in Belgrade berated the UN court that cleared him of war crimes in the former Yugoslavia.

The UN's International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was an "anti-Serbian court in the hand of Western powers," the 61-year-old head of the nationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS) said.

"It has no legal significance whatsoever," Seselj said.

He was now going to demand 14 million euros (15.9 million dollars) in compensation for his 12-year custody.

In 2014 he was temporarily released from prison due to illness. Seselj had voluntarily surrendered to the court in 2003.

It had been "clear right from the start, that I am innocent," Seselj said, adding that he had "destroyed the manipulated evidence presented there [in court]."

Despite all the trials against his Serbian compatriots in The Hague "the idea of a greater Serbia" remained "powerful with or without me."

The media in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina called Seselj's clearance of war crimes a shock and a disgrace. However, he was "not interested in these reactions," the Serbian nationalist said, accusing the US and the EU of "supporting all enemies of the Serbs."

Since the West had bombarded Serbia in 1999, it could not expect Serbs now to become their friend.

The ICTY had earlier cleared Seselj, saying there was insufficient evidence to prove his responsibility for war crimes against Croats and Muslims during the country's conflicts in the early 1990s.

None of the counts of his indictment showed Seselj's guilt, according to the ICTY.

The acquittal makes Seselj a free man, presiding judge Jean-Claude Antonetti said. The prosecution had asked for a 28-year custodial sentence.

Seselj had refused to attend the reading of the verdict.

"I don't have time to think about The Hague. I'm on the campaign trail [for the SRS] and I have to attend events every day. I'm done with them," he had told the government newspaper Novosti on Wednesday.

Serbia is electing a new parliament at the end of April.

Last update: Thu, 31/03/2016 - 13:39
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