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Last Updated: Monday, 27 November 2006, 12:40 GMT
Serb punished for trial no-show
Mr Seselj in Vukovar in 1991
Seselj stands accused of crimes in the early 1990s
Serbian nationalist leader Vojislav Seselj has lost the right to conduct his own defence after boycotting the start of his war crimes trial.

The leader of the Serbian Radical Party, the biggest party in Serbia's parliament, refused to attend the start of the trial in The Hague.

He has been on hunger strike for two weeks and is said to be getting weaker.

Mr Seselj is accused of plotting the ethnic cleansing of former Yugoslavia during the wars of the early 1990s.

He is also accused of forming a joint criminal enterprise with former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, which led to the extermination and deportation of non-Serbs from Bosnia and Croatia.

Visit demand

It had been half-expected that Mr Seselj would not attend the first day of his trial, after he began a hunger strike in his cell two weeks ago, and refused to attend a pre-trial hearing last week.

He has been demanding the right to choose his own stand-by defence lawyer, and unrestricted visits from his wife.

He was warned by the court that failing to appear for the trial could mean he would surrender the right to self-defence.

"He persists in not taking food... he persists in being absent," presiding Judge Alphons Orie said at the opening of proceedings on Monday.

"The court finds that the accused's self-representation has essentially obstructed the proper and expeditious proceedings," he said, appointing a British lawyer to take over Mr Seselj's defence.

Proceedings have often been delayed because of what the court describes as his disruptive behaviour.

This has presented a real problem for the judges, who have to balance the defendant's right to a fair trial with the interests of justice, the BBC's Geraldine Coughlan in The Hague says.


SEE ALSO
Profile: Vojislav Seselj
27 Nov 06 |  Europe
At a glance: Hague tribunal
20 Feb 03 |  Europe

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