Patriarch backs party led by war-crimes suspect

Patriarch Pavle, aged 90 but still active in politics, was photographed at a weekend gathering of hardliners at Belgrade's Sava Centre watching a film compiled by the Radicals entitled Istina (Truth), which shows footage of atrocities allegedly carried out against Serbian soldiers and civilians during the Bosnian and Croatian wars in the early 1990s. The bearded church leader watched impassively during the gruesome hour-long video, which included shots of the decapitation by Bosnian Muslim forces of Rade Rogic, a Serbian soldier, and footage of the bodies of Serbian civilians allegedly murdered by Croatian forces in Gospic.

The Patriarch 's acceptance of the Radicals' invitation represented unprecedented moral support by the Orthodox Church for Tomislav Nikolic, the former municipal undertaker who has led the Radicals since Mr Seselj unexpectedly gave himself up to the International Tribunal for War Crimes in The Hague, to stand trial for ethnic cleansing of Croatian civilians in Vojvodina and other crimes carried out by the Radicals' chetnik militia men when Yugoslavia disintegrated in the early 1990s. By attending the film showing, the Patriarch, the highest moral authority in Belgrade, also gave credibility to Mr Nikolic's insistence that he is innocent of persistent charges that he also took part in atrocities by Serbian forces in Croatia, political sources say.

The liberal newspaper Vreme has carried a photograph of Patriarch Pavle seated next to Mr Nikolic at the rally, describing the film shown as "similar to the early work of Leni Riefenstahl", Hitler's film-maker. Mr Nikolic told the crowd that the bizarre movie was "an attempt to respond to further demonisation of the Serbian people and charges that only Serbs carried out war crimes".

Vreme said the film was edited hurriedly "to help the Serbian public feel better about ceremonies to mark the 10th anniversary of Srebrenica".Bosnian Serb forces led by Ratko Mladic massacred up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys in July 1995.

Patriarch Pavle this month paid lip service to political correctness by sending condolences to the families of the dead at Srebrenica. But his association with Mr Nikolic evidently means the church wants to curry favour with the Radicals, who are Serbia's largest party, according to recent opinion polls. Mr Nikolic is the troubled Balkan nation's most popular politician, just ahead of Boris Tadic, the pro-Western Serbian President.

The Patriarch's hobnobbing with the Radicals not only makes them seem respectable but also apparently lends credibility to Mr Nikolic's attempts to defend himself against charges that he also was personally involved in war crimes as a member of Serbian units who shot some 50 unarmed, elderly Croatian civilians at the village of Antin in eastern Slavonia in late 1991.

He denies the charges, made by Natasa Kandic, head of Belgrade's Humanitarian Law Fund. Mr Nikolic says that he was "just a sentry" when serving with Mr Seselj's volunteers at Antin and that he arrived there a month after the killings of civilians. Mr Seselj at the time conferred on him the Order of Chetnik Knights, citing his henchman's "personal courage in defending the fatherland".

The Radical film, said Vreme "showed that Serbs were killed, and that if they killed it was only in response to war crimes against them or in self defence". The film also was intended as a counterpoint to a video of Serbian paramilitaries shooting unarmed Muslims at Srebrenica that was aired on Serbian television this year. It was finally made available for broadcast through the efforts of Ms Kandic, who has campaigned tirelessly for the victims of war crimes.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine