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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 25 March, 2003, 10:15 GMT
Serb radical denies war crimes
Vojislav Seselj seated in court
Seselj refused to stand
Serbian ultra-nationalist leader Vojislav Seselj has pleaded not guilty to 14 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

"Never in my life have I tortured anyone. I am not guilty," Mr Seselj told the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

He is accused by prosecutors of forming a paramilitary group responsible for a series of alleged atrocities in Croatia, Bosnia and the Vojvodina region of Serbia, and fanning the flames of war with nationalist speeches.

He refused to stand up when the judge entered court, flouting court protocol.

Mr Seselj, who came second in last December's Serbian presidential election, dressed in paramilitary uniform and carried a pistol during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia.

SESELJ'S CAREER
Mr Seselj in Vukovar in 1991
Vojislav Seselj with armed supporters in Vukovar in 1991
1954 born in eastern Hercegovina
1984 jailed after calling for Serb-dominated state
1999 resigns as Serbian deputy prime minister
2002 comes third in presidential election

He declined to enter a plea last month at his first appearance in court, after raising objections to the translation of the indictment.

Under the tribunal's rules indictees have to enter a plea within 30 days of their first appearance or a plea of "not guilty" is entered on their behalf.

Mr Seselj was indicted on 14 February on eight counts of crimes against humanity and six counts of violations of the laws or customs of war between 1991 and 1993.

He is not charged personally with atrocities but the "Chetnik" forces loyal to him are accused of "murders, extermination, torture, expulsion, imprisonment and cruel treatment".

He has said he will use his court appearances to make political speeches and try to put forward his version of events.

He has previously described the Hague tribunal as an "American instrument against the Serbs".

If convicted, he faces life in prison.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Geraldine Coughlan
"He laughed at the allegations in the indictment"



SEE ALSO:
Profile: Vojislav Seselj
21 Feb 03 |  Europe
At a glance: Hague tribunal
20 Feb 03 |  Europe


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