Fears as Milosevic ally lands law chair

April 7, 2000

An extremist former paramilitary leader who is now deputy prime minister of Serbia has begun work as a law professor at Belgrade University.

The appointment of Vojislav Seselj, leader of the ultra-right Serbian Radical Party and a close ally of President Slobodan Milosevic, has sent tremors through the academic community and caused one leading professor to resign.

Gaso Knezevic left the university in protest this February after ten years at the faculty where he specialised in commercial law.

Professor Knezevic said his concerns were based on Professor Seselj's academic qualifications and his political extremism.

Professor Seselj finished law school and gained a PhD at Belgrade with a thesis on national defence. But, Professor Knezevic said: "He has no experience in the field of education.

"He was never a member of any examining panel for PhD or MA theses and they brought him in as a professor - the highest level in education. With that, they broke every rule in the book."

Professor Knezevic labelled Professor Seselj "a fascist" because of his incendiary, nationalist rabble-rousing. Professor Seselj has also shown intolerance toward student protest.

On July 9 1992, in front of the entrance to the Serbian Parliament, the then Dr Seselj waved a gun and threatened student demonstrators who had hit him with a bar of soap.

At the time of war in Croatia and Bosnia, Dr Seselj threatened: "Serbs possess SS-22 rockets, which can bear nuclear heads. They are very dangerous and hard to knock down... We shall flatten Zagreb and other Croat towns."

Before the latest conflict over Kosovo, Dr Seselj said: "If it comes to bombing, if American aggression starts taking place, the Serbs will get killed in great numbers, but there will be no Albanians in Kosovo."

Professor Seselj is understood to be lecturing for two hours a week at the university.

Professor Knezevic has found work both in private practice and at the Centre for Advanced Legal Studies - a project receiving help from the Soros Open Society Fund.

This is part of a larger non-government education system called the Alternative Academic Network. Professors offer classes to students to enable them to study outside the beleaguered Serbian university system and to get quality teaching and attain a certificate that is internationally respected.

Since his resignation, Professor Knezevic has taken a more active political role in the Serbian opposition. He is now deputy leader of Civic Alliance, a liberal and social democratic group that is headed by one of his former law students, Goran Svilanovic. Standing fast? Israelis opposed to withdrawal from the Golan Heights hold a torchlight protest REUTERS

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