First Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Karamarko said on Thursday that Croatia would react if the indicted war criminal Vojislav Seselj was given a choice of whether or not he would attend a sentencing hearing at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague next week.

"This Seselj business is ridiculous. We are talking about a war criminal, and giving him options and choices is perverse," Karamarko told the press during a visit to the central Adriatic city of Sibenik when asked to comment on the announcement by the ICTY that Seselj could decide whether he would appear in court or would follow the sentencing hearing via video link from Belgrade.

"We can see a war criminal laughing to our face, to the face of the whole world and the Hague tribunal," Karamarko added.

The ICTY will deliver a verdict in the Seselj case on March 31, and has asked Seselj to let it know by March 22 whether he wishes to follow the sentencing hearing by video link from Belgrade where he is on provisional release on health grounds.

Seselj is accused of war crimes committed during the wars in the early 1990s, including crimes against humanity, persecution, deportation and inhumane treatment of Croats and Bosniaks in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Serbian province of Vojvodina.

Seselj said on Thursday that he was not interested in the sentencing hearing and that he would not follow it via video link. He said he would appeal regardless of the outcome.

"Why would I follow the sentencing hearing by video link if the Serbian state broadcaster has the obligation to transmit it live?" he told a press conference in Belgrade.

Seselj said he had information that he would be sentenced to 25 years in prison. He said that Serbian deputy war crimes prosecutor Bruno Vekaric had allegedly informed Croatian officials that "Seselj will be sentenced to 25 years."

Seselj said that he had "defeated The Hague 10:0 and nothing can belittle this victory."

He announced that members of his Radical Party would hold a rally in Belgrade's Republic Square on March 24 to mark the beginning of NATO's 1999 bombing campaign against Serbia and would use the occasion also to protest against the ICTY, which is due to deliver a verdict against wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic on that day.

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