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Serbian Nationalist Leader Goes on Trial in Hague
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Serbian nationalist leader Vojislav Seselj went on trial on Monday at the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Leader of Serbia's largest party, the Serbian Radical Party, Seselj is facing eight counts of crimes against humanity and six counts of war crimes relating to the murder, torture, persecution and deportation of Croats, Muslims and other non-Serbs during the Balkan wars in the 1990s.

Seselj, 52, has pleaded innocent to all the charges. He faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment if convicted.

Seselj was indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in January 2003. In late February that year he surrendered to the ICTY in The Hague.

According to the indictment, Seselj allegedly participated in "a joint criminal enterprise" between 1991 and 1995, which was aimed at permanently removing a majority of the Croat, Muslim and other non-Serb populations from large areas of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Vojvodina, Serbia, in order to make these areas part of a new Serb-dominated state.

As a prominent political figure at the time, he is alleged to have played a key role by giving many inflammatory speeches propagating a policy of uniting "all Serbian lands" in a homogeneous Serbian state.

Like his former ally and late Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic, Seselj does not recognize the legitimacy of The Hague tribunal and insists on conducting his own defense procedure.

He has been removed from the court during pre-trial hearings because of his disruptive behavior and insults to the judges.

Seselj went on hunger strike two weeks ago demanding that the tribunal grant him a free choice for legal advisers, unrestricted spousal visits and an unconditional right to conduct his own defense.

Last Wednesday, he refused to appear at a final preliminary hearing saying his voice was too weak for him to attend the hearing.

The Serbian Radical Party is currently the largest party in the Serbian parliament. Last week Seselj said he will top his party's list of contenders for the January 2007 general elections.

(Xinhua News Agency November 28, 2006)

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