Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj threatens to go on hunger strike if the Trial Chamber grants the prosecution motion to assign defense counsel to him

Vojislav Seselj in the courtroomVojislav Seselj in the courtroom

In late 2006, Vojislav Seselj went on hunger strike, forcing the Appeals Chamber to revoke the decision assigning stand-by counsel to him. Today Seselj threatened he would again go on hunger strike – until his death – if the Trial Chamber attempted to restrict his right to self-representation.

The prosecution today asked the Trial Chamber for permission to exceed the allowed number of words in its motion in support of the demand to assign defense counsel to Seselj without delay, because of his ‘fundamental and persistent obstruction of the legal proceedings in the courtroom’. Seselj contends the ‘prosecution is desperate since its case has been a failure so far’. The prosecutors see his death as ‘the only way out of this situation’, Seselj added.

Presiding judge Jean-Claude Antonetti tried to calm Seselj down, telling him that the prosecution had merely announced its intention to file a motion; there can be no discussion about a motion no one has yet seen, the judge told Seselj. It was explained to Seselj that he would have an opportunity to draft a written response with his legal advisors and file it, but Seselj indicated he would not be responding, insisting instead that the issue be discussed in public since he didn’t want to ‘take part in a secret debate’. He added he would not be appealing against the judges’ decision. However, if the judges decision ran ‘contrary to his interests’, Seselj would go on ‘hunger strike’.

The presiding judge then warned Seselj that threats and pressure ‘serve no purpose’, bringing his trial to an end for this week. The trial proceeded in closed session today during the testimony of protected witness VS 1022; only a brief discussion on the length of the motion was open to public.

The trial of the Serbian Radical Party leader charged with crimes against humanity in Croatia, Vojvodina and BH continues next Tuesday.