PROSECUTION: ‘SESELJ INTIMIDATES WITNESSES’
The accused wants the Trial Chamber not to allow the prosecutor to call witnesses who have changed their minds in the meantime and ’volunteered’ to testify in his defense. The prosecution indicates it intends to file a motion showing that witnesses scheduled to testify for the prosecution have not change their minds voluntarily but did so ‘under duress and because of threats’
Vojislav Seselj in the courtroom
A protected witness testifying under the pseudonym VS-1012 gave his evidence today in closed session about crimes against Muslims in Zvornik, as indicated in the prosecution pre-trial brief. The rest of the session at the trial of the Serbian Radical leader Vojislav Seselj was spent debating procedural issues. The accused objected to the prosecution’s intention to spend another 130 hours, more than 30 working days, to present its case, despite the fact that it was allotted much less time. At the same time, Seselj requested that the prosecution not be allowed to tender written witness statements, a procedure that would save a lot of time.
The judges warned Seselj for the umpteenth time that the evidence in the form of written statements didn’t prejudice his case because he was still able to cross-examine every witness on whatever issue he considered relevant. They drew his attention to the fact that the evidence given by a witness in the courtroom would always be given more weight. Concluding the debate on this issue, the presiding judge emphasized that the prosecution case was to be completed by late November or early December 2008.
Seselj then asked the Trial Chamber to prevent the prosecution from calling witnesses who have changed sides and who have decided of their own free will to give evidence in his defense. When the presiding judge announced that the Trial Chamber would consider the arguments of the accused, the prosecutor asked the Chamber to wait with the decision until 27 June 2008. The prosecution intends to file a motion containing evidence to show that the witnesses who have decided to change sides have not done so voluntarily, but ‘because they have been threatened and under duress’.
As today’s hearing drew to a close, the prosecution told the court it intended to file a motion by the end of this month asking the Trial Chamber to appoint defense counsel to represent Seselj. The accused indicated he would not be responding to the prosecution motion, but would ‘take certain steps’ when the Trial Chamber ruled on motion.
The trial of Vojislav Seselj continues next Tuesday when the prosecution plans to call evidence about the activities of ’Seselj’s men’ in the greater Sarajevo area. The first witnesses to testify about the crimes in the Herzegovina towns of Nevesinje and Mostar are expected to appear in July.