Vojislav Seselj says he’s a victim of religious and political persecution and he’s demanding millions of dollars in damages.
A former deputy prime minister of Serbia, Seselj has been in custody since 2003 when he handed himself over voluntarily to the UN-backed tribunal prosecuting war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, reports Peter Cluskey in the Irish Times. He has demanded compensation of $17.6 million for what he says has been the unlawful deprivation of his liberty.
In a 57-page submission to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Seselj, who is the founder of the Serbian Radical Party, says his detention by police is wrong.
He says all charges against him are groundless and that he has suffered both defamation of character and damage to his health while in jail.
His story is all too close to the plot of PERSECUTED, a movie scheduled for release July 18. In it, the fictional John Luther is framed and his good name is dragged through the mud when he refuses to go along with U.S. government officials attempting to impose tight restrictions on America’s freedom of religion.
In the real world, Seselj says he has been framed by vengeful authorities and has pleaded not guilty to crimes against humanity – specifically, the persecution of Croats – in Croatia, Bosnia- Herzegovina and Vojvodina between 1991 and 1993, when he was allegedly associated with the paramilitary group, the White Eagles, also known as Seseljevci, or Seselj’s Men.
He denies all charges.
“The nationalist leader’s trial began in November 2006 and has never been straightforward,” writes Cluskey. “Although he planned to represent himself, he was on hunger strike in the UN detention unit at Scheveningen prison when the proceedings opened, and was assigned legal counsel to conduct his defence.
Seselj appealed that decision to assign him counsel and won.
In July 2009, Seselj – formerly a lecturer in political science at the universities of Sarajevo in Bosnia and Michigan in the US – was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment for publishing the names of protected witnesses on his website.
On July 1st, the Serbian government said it was willing to give guarantees to the tribunal about Seselj’s security in Belgrade, but only if Seselj himself was willing to give a written commitment that he would abide by the terms of any temporary release agreement reached.
As a result, the Hague tribunal gave Seselj three days to give that commitment. He failed to comply, arguing that he was now being held illegally and wishes to be released without conditions.