Vojislav Seselj now claims that when he praised Slobodan Milosevic and Jovica Stanisic in his public statements for assisting in the organization, arming and equipping of Serbian Radical Party volunteers, he in fact wanted to "hassle ad provoke them into taking reckless repressive action" against himself and the SRS. He also explains the meaning of the "rusty spoon" and the "retorsion principle" from Hrtkovci

Vojislav Seselj in the courtroomVojislav Seselj in the courtroom

Vojislav Seselj today renounced many of his public statements made in the past decade, in particular those in which he attacked and accused Slobodan Milosevic, Jovica Stanisic and other Serb officials or praised them for assisting in the organization, arming and equipping the volunteers of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS).

Seselj does not deny that in his statements to the domestic and foreign media he claimed to "have closely cooperated" with Milosevic while he was a "leading patriot," or that he got an order from Jovica Stanisic to gather the volunteers who were then issued weapons and equipment from the JNA depots. But he also says that the statements have to be viewed "in the context of the political life in Serbia," and that they are part of the "Serbian political folklore."

Seselj now claims that after parting ways with Milosevic in 1993 he launched a "fierce propaganda campaign", using "all means available" to "denigrate, hassle and provoke…" Milosevic and lead him to take "reckless repressive measures" against him personally and the SRS because this was "politically expedient" at the time. For the same reason and in the same manner, Seselj "provoked" the then chief of the secret police, not drawing the line at making "bombastic statements" and false accusations. Because, as Seselj said today, if he were falsely accused, he was determined "to use false accusations in defense."

By renouncing the statement he made at the time, Seselj is now trying to contest the prosecution arguments and evidence about the ties between Slobodan Milosevic, the Yugoslav People's Army and SRS volunteers that were sent to Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Seselj now claims that Milosevic had nothing to do with it, that the SRS volunteers gathered in a legal manner and were then sent to the JNA and that they operated strictly under its command, not as paramilitary formations. When Milosevic confronted him with testimony of prosecution witnesses who spoke about crimes committed by Seselj's men in Western Slavonia, Lika and Bosnia, Seselj labeled their claims as "fabrication" and "nonsense", assuring the judges that, as far as he knew" "no SRS volunteer ever committed any war crimes."

Milosevic gave Seselj an opportunity to explain his famous statement about "slaughtering people with rusty spoons." Some prosecution witnesses claimed that he had made it at a rally or during a private meeting in a house of a Radical. Seselj explained that he had said it in a comedy talk show on TV, in answer to the question, "So, do you Chetniks still slaughter people?" He now claims the question was asked in "a humorous way", and he responded in kind, "Yes, but we've changed our methodology. We no longer use knives, but rusty spoons." Seselj explains that this was "gallows humor" he is really partial to.

In his testimony as Slobodan Milosevic's defense witness, Seselj showed his hand to a great extent: he gave an idea as to how he intends to defend himself at his own trial against charges of crimes against humanity in Croatia, BH and Vojvodina. Speaking about his famous speech in the village of Hrtkovci, Seselj says he did not call for the expulsion of Croats – as the prosecution alleges – but that he advocated the "retorsion principle". "Since Tudjman's regime expelled hundreds of thousands of Serbs," he said, he merely urged that "Serbia apply the retorsion principle," and make it easier for refugee Serbs and Croats "to exchange property." As he explained, this was an "election campaign promise" and an "expression of anger and despair born of the moment," and the Radicals soon gave up on the "retorsion principle."

Slobodan Milosevic should, as announced, complete the direct examination of Vojislav Seselj tomorrow.