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Video Shows Supporters Cheering as Accused Serbian War Criminal Arrives in Belgrade

Hundreds of people gathered as ultranationalist Vojislav Seselj made his way off of a flight after his release from a war crimes tribunal to return home for cancer treatment.

by Kayla Ruble
Nov 12 2014, 6:15pm

Photo via AP/Darko Vojinovic

A 60-year-old Serbian politician suspected of committing war crimes during the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s was met with cheers from a crowd of supporters on Wednesday when he arrived in Belgrade after being temporarily released by the International Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICYT) in the Hague in order to seek medical treatment.

Video shows hundreds of people gathered at Belgrade airport as ultranationalist Vojislav Sesejl, founder of the Serbian Radical Party, made his way off of a flight from Amsterdam. He is reportedly battling colon cancer that has moved to his liver, and has returned on provisional grounds to receive cancer treatment in Serbia. Supporters for the man accused of overseeing atrocities in the expulsion of non-Serbs from areas of Bosnia and Croatia yelled "Victory! Victory!" as they welcomed him as a national hero.

Video via Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

His trial at the UN-backed war crimes tribunal ended in 2012, but the court is still weighing a verdict. Seselj is strictly prohibited from interfering with witnesses or victims while he is in Serbia for medical treatment. He must return to The Hague when the tribunal orders him to do so.

Speaking from the offices of the Serbian Radical Party in Belgrade on Wednesday, however, he claimed that he had "won the battle" against the ICTY, calling it a "wounded globalist beast."

"They [the judges at the UN tribunal] say it [my release] is temporary," Seselj said. "But it will be temporary only until we overthrow from power [President] Tomislav Nikolic and [Prime Minister] Aleksandar Vucic, our renegades and Serbian traitors."

He is charged with several crimes, including torture and murder, related to the ethnic persecution of Croats and Bosnian Muslims during the wars. Along with other Serbian officials at the time, such as notorious leader Slobodan Milosevic, he is accused of orchestrating the sieges and sometimes the destruction of Croatia and Bosnian towns in order to expel non-ethnic Serbs.

He initially turned himself over to ICTY authorities in 2003. Court hearings began in 2007. He waged a hunger strike in 2006, with thousands of Serbs taking to the streets to voice their support. Shortly before the trial finished in 2012, the far-rightist claimed that he was being mocked by the judges.

Seselj is not the first ICTY defendant who has had health problems during his trial. Milosevic died of a heart attack in 2006 before his trial concluded.

Follow Kayla Ruble on Twitter:@RubleKB