Foreign news agencies and media on Thursday reported on a "shocking" and "surprising" acquittal of Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, saying that the ruling dealt a heavy blow to the prosecution and victims and gave a boost to the anti-EU Serbian Radical Party ahead of Serbia's parliamentary elections in April.
The ICTY on Thursday acquitted Seselj on all nine counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Croatia, the Serbian province of Vojvodina, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Reuters said that it was "a shock verdict that delivered a boost to his anti-EU Serbian Radical Party ahead of April elections."
At Radical Party headquarters in Belgrade, Seselj's supporters cheered the ruling. "Polls show his party hovering just above the 5 percent threshold it would need to return to parliament next month after four years outside," Reuters said.
Seselj's acquittal also came as a blow to prosecutors at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia after the decade-long trial, the longest in the history of the ICTY.
The Associated Press recalled that this "sweeping defeat" for prosecutors at the ICTY came a week after Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic was sentenced to 40 years in prison for the Srebrenica genocide and war crimes committed elsewhere in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
"The verdict is a major blow for the prosecution – which was heavily criticised by presiding judge Jean-Claude Antonetti – and for the families of thousands of Croatian and Muslim victims of the conflict," the Financial Times said.
In their shock ruling pronounced in Seselj's absence, Judge Jean-Claude Antonetti said the prosecution had failed to prove the charges and said: "Vojislav Seselj is now a free man," AFP said.
All the agencies quoted Croatian Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic as saying that Seselj's acquittal was a defeat for the prosecution and shameful for the Hague tribunal.