Serb nationalist sentenced to 2 years for contempt

Associated Press

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The Yugoslav war crimes tribunal sentenced Serb ultranationalist Vojislav Seselj to two years imprisonment Thursday for refusing to remove information from his website that revealed the identities of witnesses who had been granted anonymity by the court.

Seselj, who revels in expressing his contempt for the U.N. court, remained defiant, refusing to stand up when Presiding Judge Stefan Trechsel read out his sentence.

"You are the scum of this world, why would I stand up for you?" he barked at the Swiss judge, who did not react and continued reading the judgment while Seselj remained seated.

It was the third time Seselj had been convicted of contempt since turning himself in to the U.N. court in 2003 to face charges of using hate-laced speeches to incite Serb atrocities in the Balkan wars of the early 1990s.

Prosecutors have demanded a 28-year sentence for Seselj in the main case against him. Seselj denies wrongdoing.

Trechsel called Seselj's refusal to remove the identities of witnesses from his website a "flagrant disregard" of court orders that amounted to "a direct attack upon the judicial authority of the tribunal."

The two-year sentence is largely symboilic as Seselj already has spent nine years in jail in The Hague before and during his long-running trial and his sentence.

He was first convicted of contempt in 2009 and sentenced to 15 months, then again last year, when he received an 18-month sentence.

The judges in his third case said the previous convictions counted as an "aggravating factor," in their sentencing — meaning it made them consider a harsher punishment.

The maximum sentence for contempt at the tribunal is seven years and a fine of up to €100,000 ($125,000).

Seselj's trial was slated to start in 2006 but was held up when he staged a hunger strike to support his demand to act as his own defense attorney. It finally got under way in 2007 and lasted nearly five years, in part because of delays prompted by allegations of witness intimidation. While the trial itself has finished, the judges have not yet delivered their verdict.

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