The Serbian Radicals’ leader has indicated he might decide not to call any evidence in his defense unless the issues related to the financing of his defense are resolved. Judge Antonetti has reminded him it is his own fault because he has refused to provide the Registry with the full disclosure of his financial status. The hearing today proceeded in closed session for the most part

Vojislav Seselj in the courtroomVojislav Seselj in the courtroom

At the beginning of the first session in 2009 at the Tribunal, the Trial Chamber with French judge Antonetti presiding allowed the accused Vojislav Seselj to raise ‘a few administrative issues’. After a brief discussion, the trial proceeded in closed session with the evidence of a protected prosecution witness.

The Serbian Radicals’ leader first complained about the ‘media witch hunt’ allegedly conducted against him in Serbia by his former fellow party members Tomislav Nikolic and Aleksandar Vucic. Their goal is to prove his role in the contract to kill Nikolic, Seselj claimed, and to advance the claim that the rump Radical Party voted to adopt the Serbian budget in return for a hefty financial reward. The Radicals’ leader therefore asked the Chamber to allow him to address the Serbian public by phone at a press conference. The presiding judge saw no need for the Tribunal to be concerned with internal squabbling on the Serbian political scene, indicating he would rule on Seselj’s demand after consulting his colleagues in the Chamber.

The accused then said that because of the restrictions the Registry imposed on his communications regime he still could not get in touch with his legal advisers. When he did talk to them, they never discussed any issues related to the case. He did say that he had advised the leader of his legal team Zoran Krasic to start drafting the final brief since he didn’t intend to call any evidence in his defense unless he was allowed to contact his advisers and unless the problems related to the financing of his defense were resolved. Seselj again said that if the Trial Chamber decided to assign defense counsel to him he would go on hunger strike and file a legal suit against the UN in the USA; his legal team has already drafted a 160-page brief in support of the charges he intends to bring.

In response to Seselj’s threat, the presiding judge reminded Seselj that he still could communicate with his legal advisers using an ‘ordinary telephone line’ because only the ‘privileged line’ was revoked. Judge Antonetti also addressed the funding of Seselj’s defense, saying that the delay was caused by Seselj’s refusal to provide the Registry with full disclosure of his financial status. He invited Seselj to raise this issue and other issues related to the financing of his defense with the Trial Chamber and with the new ICTY president Patrick Robinson.

The Seselj trial continued two days before the official end of the winter court recess. The other ongoing trials will continue next Monday.