Accused war criminal Seselj to rally against Serbian government
Serbian nationalist firebrand Vojislav Seselj is spearheading an anti-government rally on Saturday but as he fights cancer and awaits judgement on war crimes charges he is as beleaguered as his once formidable party.
Belgrade: Serbian nationalist firebrand Vojislav Seselj is spearheading an anti-government rally on Saturday but as he fights cancer and awaits judgement on war crimes charges he is as beleaguered as his once formidable party.
His fit appearance and jovial manner during a rapturous homecoming welcome on Wednesday belied the fact that he was back in Serbia because a UN tribunal in The Hague decided he is so sick that it ordered him to return home for cancer treatment immediately.
A day after his return, Seselj announced plans for Saturday`s rally in Belgrade, calling for a "mass mobilisation of Serbian patriots against the current pro-Western regime and to oppose any attempt to make Serbia join both the European Union and NATO".
Ironically, the government is now headed by two of his former allies, Tomislav Nikolic and Aleksandar Vucic, who are respectively president and prime minister.
The two men left Seselj`s Serb Radical Party (SRS) in 2008 and founded their own pro-European SNS party.
Seselj upon his return called his estranged allies "traitors" who "sold our honour and gave up Serb nationalism to become servants of the West".
The 60-year-old Seselj has returned to a country that has greatly changed after he voluntarily surrendered to the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia) in 2003 and went on trial four years later.
The trial wrapped up in March 2012 but the court has yet to issue a verdict.
The UN court accused him of leading ethnic Serb volunteers in persecuting Croats, Muslims and other non-Serbs during the brutal 1990s wars in Croatia and Bosnia.
At his trial, Seselj pleaded not guilty to nine counts including murder, torture, cruel treatment and wanton destruction of villages.
The groups which once helped whip up murderous fervour as the former Yugoslavia disintegrated amid war in the 1990s are on a steady slide into oblivion.
Today none are even represented in the Serbian parliament, including Seselj`s party.
"Nationalist rhetoric is ancient history. During (Seselj`s) absence many things have happened that he does not understand," political analyst Sasa Popov told AFP.
His return will not threaten the government, said political analyst Djordje Vukadinovic.
"To topple the government is too ambitious a goal, especially if he does not change the rhetoric he has been using in the 1990s," he said.
Seselj`s return has also not been welcomed by victims` groups in neighbouring Croatia and Bosnia.
"It is sad and unjust... I`m afraid that eventually no one will be held accountable for all the crimes that were committed in Croatia" during the 1991-1995 war, Denijel Rehak, from the eastern town of Vukovar and who heads an association of prisoners of war, told AFP.