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ICTY defendant Seselj pleads not guilty to third set of contempt charges

Former Serb nationalist politician and war crimes suspect Vojislav Seselj [case materials; JURIST news archive] pleaded not guilty Wednesday in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] to a third set of contempt charges for failing to remove confidential information from his website in violation of a tribunal order. Seselj entered his not guilty plea [AP report] at his initial appearance before the Trial Chamber in The Hague. The Trial Chamber filed an order in lieu of an indictment [text, PDF] in May against Seselj for his failure to comply with a May 9 order to remove from his website three books he authored and five confidential filings [defense website] that reveal the identities of protected witnesses who testified against him. The contempt proceedings were brought under Rule 77(a)(ii) of the ICTY Rules of Procedure and Evidence [text, PDF], which authorizes the court to hold in contempt anyone who "knowingly and willfully interfere[s] with its administration of justice, including any person who ... discloses information relating to those proceedings in knowing violation of an order of a Chamber." On Thursday, the court dismissed his motion for provisional release [judgment, PDF] submitted orally at his initial appearance since his detention stems form the pending war crimes charges against him. Seselj has been in the tribunal's custody since February 2003.

In May, the ICTY rejected [JURIST report] Seselj's attempt to have the charges against him dismissed, finding sufficient evidence for the trial to continue. He is charged with 14 counts of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war. Seselj's war crimes trial, which began in 2006, resumed in early 2010, after being delayed [JURIST reports] for nearly a year over fears that witnesses were being intimidated. In February, Seselj went on trial [JURIST report] on charges that he released the names of 11 ICTY witnesses in violation of a confidentiality order. Last May, the ICTY appeals division upheld a 2009 contempt verdict [JURIST reports] against Seselj for revealing the identities of other witnesses that were supposed to remain confidential. Seselj is accused of establishing rogue paramilitary units affiliated with the SRS, which are believed to have massacred and otherwise persecuted Croats and other non-Serbs during the Balkan conflict.

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