The Serbian Radical Party leader has said he cannot enter a plea on the new version of the third contempt of court indictment, claiming he was 'unable to understand' the document, which has been slightly amended, without the assistance of his legal advisors. He has refused to talk to them on the 'ordinary telephone line which is being monitored'. He would be prepared to talk to them over the 'privileged' line, but the right to privileged communications has been revoked in a recent Registry decision

Vojislav Seselj in the courtroomVojislav Seselj in the courtroom

Countering his constant boasts that he is the best defense counsel ever to practice before the Tribunal, easily contesting all the prosecution's allegations, Vojislav Seselj said today he was unable to understand the allegations in the amended third contempt of court indictment against him without the assistance of his legal advisors. He therefore refused to enter his plea. The Registry has recently issued a decision to monitor Seselj's communications for a period of 30 days, because there were 'reasonable grounds to suspect he has abused the right to privileged communications to attempt to influence or intimidate the witnesses' or to 'facilitate the publication of confidential material on his website'.

At his initial appearance before Judge Hall on 6 July 2011, the accused pleaded not guilty to the third indictment for contempt of court, based on his failure to comply with four orders issued by the Trial Chamber to remove three books and five documents from his website, because they contained confidential information about several protected prosecution witnesses. The partially amended indictment he was supposed to plead on today contains a small addition: an allegation that Seselj has in the meantime refused to comply with the fifth order compelling him to remove four, rather than three, books from the site. The accused was nevertheless unable to understand the indictment, or at least claimed that was the case.

The Radicals' leader stated that he needed legal assistance because he intended to demand the disqualification of the three judges, Kwon, Morrison and Hall in this case against him. He will argue, as he has indicated, that 'these are not reasonable people' since they handed down 'an unreasonable judgment' on the second contempt indictment against Seselj, sentencing him to 18 months in prison. He needed his legal advisors to assist him to study international jurisprudence and to search for the compromising details in the CVs of the judges whose disqualification he will seek. Seselj's communications with his advisors has been curtailed but not denied, but he insists he wants to use 'privileged communications' and refuses to talk to them over the ordinary telephone line which is monitored.

Since he was allowed to address the judges on other topics, the accused attacked savagely 'traitor' Tomislav Nikolic and the Registrar; the latter, Seselj claims, has been 'curtailing my rights for seven years'. When he was asked if he had any complaints regarding his health and the conditions in the detention, the accused spoke at length about food-related problems, As he said, the detainees 'are subjected to the worst kind of torture' because frozen food is used to prepare their meals, and they are forced to cook their meals themselves. He does not cook, but waits for other people to cook something or eats canned food, he explained

Within the next ten days, the Tribunal will schedule Seselj's further appearance on the third amended contempt indictment, as required by the rules of the Tribunal. If the accused again refuses to enter his plea, the judge will enter a plea of not guilty on his behalf.

Vojislav Seselj has already been sentenced to 15 and then 18 months on two contempt of court indictment, stemming from his publication of information about protected prosecution witnesses in his books. In his main trial for the crimes against non-Serbs in Croatia, Vojvodina and BH, the parties will present their closing arguments in early March 2012.