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Serb nationalist war crimes indictee removed from court after outbursts

[JURIST] Serbian war crimes suspect and former nationalist politician Vojislav Seselj [BBC profile; ICTY case backgrounder], was removed from a court hearing at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] Wednesday after he disrupted proceedings on several occasions. An ICTY appeals panel last month ruled that Seselj could represent himself [JURIST report] during his trial, but also appointed two lawyers - David Cooper and Andreas O'Shea - to assist Seselj with his defense if necessary. Seselj interrupted the lawyers when they attempted to speak Wednesday, calling them "spies" and demanding that the court remove them as assistant counsel. After being cautioned several times against making such outbursts, presiding Judge Alphons Orie removed Seselj from court.

After Seselj left the room, Cooper informed the judge that confusion over who was in charge of Seselj's defense prevented the team from adequately preparing for trial. The trial was originally scheduled to begin Thursday but has been delayed [JURIST report] in order to allow the defense more time to prepare. A hearing is scheduled for Friday to determine when the trial will begin.

Seselj was indicted by the tribunal in 2003 and charged [indictment, PDF] in connection with his role in establishing rogue paramilitary units affiliated with the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party [party website, in Serbian]. Those units are believed to have massacred and otherwise persecuted Croats and other non-Serbs in the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. Seselj has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Reuters has more.

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