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Serb nationalist war crimes defendant on hunger strike over court-appointed counsel

[JURIST] Serbian war crimes suspect Vojislav Seselj [BBC profile; ICTY case backgrounder] has started a hunger strike ahead of his trial, scheduled for November 27 at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), demanding [statement, DOC] that the ICTY dismiss his court-appointed lawyers and allow him to prepare is defense with lawyers of his choosing. Seselj also demanded that all court documents be delivered to him in paper rather than electronic form and asked that the court permit his wife to visit him in prison. An ICTY appeals panel last month ruled that Seselj could represent himself [JURIST report] during his trial, but also appointed two lawyers - David Cooper and Andreas O'Shea - to assist Seselj with his defense if necessary. During a pre-trial hearing earlier this month, Seselj was removed from the courtroom [JURIST report] for disrupting proceedings whenever the court-appointed lawyers attempted to speak.

Seselj was indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia [official website] in 2003 and charged [indictment, PDF] in connection with his role in establishing rogue paramilitary units affiliated with the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party [party website, in Serbian]. Those units are believed to have massacred and otherwise persecuted Croats and other non-Serbs in the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. Seselj has pleaded not guilty to the charges, five of which were dropped [JURIST report] by the ICTY last week. AP has more.

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