Skip to main content
October 3, 1994
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 158

The Arrest of Vojislav Seselj

by Ivan Radovanovic

It all happened at 9:30 AM on Thursday at a checkpoint on the highway near Batajnica (the Belgrade suburb where Seselj resides). Seselj was in the car with Steva Dragisic, a Radical Party Parliamentary deputy, who asked ``Are they going to arrest you?'' when he saw several cars stopped by the police. ``They certainly will; all they need is a reason,'' Seselj replied. They were stopped by the traffic police before the policeman in camouflage blue appeared.

Dragisic said there was no force used during the arrest. Seselj asked: ``Have you got a warrant?'' The policeman answered, ``Yes, a judge has it at at our headquarters.''

Seselj calmly got out of the car, handed over his pistol and got into the police car that was parked nearby. Several SWAT officers in full riot gear stood nearby, watching the scene. Dragisic wasn't even asked anything and his party leader gave him no message when he left. Even more interestingly, Seselj's bodyguards weren't there. He left for work only in the company of his young Parliamentary deputy who also lives in Batajnica and is frequently given a ride.

An official statement said Seselj was arrested over an incident on Tuesday in the Federal Parliament when he spat at Chamber Speaker Radoman Bozovic and called him a thief (Bozovic later claimed that he had also been assaulted by Seselj).

So what happened next? According to unofficial reports, Bozovic raised charges against Seselj on Wednesday. The administrative committee of the Chamber of Citizens met and lifted Seselj's parliamentary immunity that same day. Rumors that he was going to be arrested circulated that evening. The rumor persisted and, Radical Party members say, Seselj spent that night waiting to be arrested.

The police finally acted on Thursday morning. The street where the Radical Party headquarters is located was blocked off by uniformed and plainclothesed policemen, the phones were cut off in the party headquarters (the lines were connected just after 10, when confirmation of the arrest came through) and an ambush was set up at the Batajnica traffic police checkpoint. Seselj's house was probably also under surveillance, but Dragisic says he didn't notice any police when he came to the house. Immediately afterwards, Tanjug news agency reported the arrest and charges agaist Seselj.

``Don't open the door, not for anyone! When Voja gets back he'll open the door,'' Seselj's mother Danica shouted to her family when VREME reporters and Dragisic got to the Seselj home. Danica Seselj was just coming home with her younger grandson Aleksandar and the only thing she would say about her son's arrest was that the secretary in the party headquarters had phoned to tell her and that she hadn't heard anything from the police. VREME asked whether she or anyone else had phoned the police to find out what was happening to Seselj, but she just said: ``Why should I call them.''

VREME was told that the Serbian Radical Party won't cause incidents over the arrest. ``The party is continuing its work,'' Dragisic said and added that they would probably rent some large hall in central Belgrade to organize protests every evening. ``We'll invite anyone who wants to say something, no matter which party they belong to.''

Tomislav Nikolic, the party's deputy leader and head of the Radicals' parliamentary group in the Serbian Parliament, explained that their protests would not include demonstrations, public hunger strikes and similar protests. ``We'll avoid every incident because they (the authorities) would probably use them to ban the party and arrest us all since we would automatically lose our imunity,'' Nikolic told a press conference just an hour after the arrest.

Unofficially, party members are happy with the turn of events. The press conference drew one of the largest numbers of reporters so far. Publicity has even been secured on state-controlled TV, a fact that no doubt even Seselj is happy about.

The party will be headed by Nikolic until Seselj is released from jail. If he is arrested, Dragan Todorovic takes over. If he's arrested Maja Gojkovic steps in and Aleksandar Stefanovic after her and so on. Apart from painting a clear picture of the party's hierarchy, this also shows that Seselj had anticipated the arrest. On the other hand, the theory that he wanted to be arrested got the support of the leader of another party who was also arrested in his time: ``Voja now has a publicity campaign that would have cost 10 million deutschemarks.''

© Copyright VREME NDA (1991-2001), all rights reserved.