BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) - Hundreds of Serb nationalists burned a Croatian flag Saturday in protest over a decision by a U.N. war crimes court to overturn guilty verdicts against two Croatian generals.
Many in Serbia are furious that appeals judges at the Netherlands-based tribunal on Friday freed Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, who had been previously sentenced to lengthy prison terms for murdering and expelling Serbs from Croatia during an offensive in 1995.
Croatians, meanwhile, consider the decision a proof that they were the victims in the Balkan conflict.
Supporters of the extremist Serbian Radical Party rallied in front of the presidency building in the center Belgrade demanding that the government abandon plans to join the 27-nation European Union and cut ties with the court in The Hague, Netherlands.
The crowd carried banners reading "Stop The Hague" and chanted nationalist slogans in support of the party leader, Vojislav Seselj, whose own trial is ongoing at the tribunal for the role in the atrocities against non-Serbs during the Balkan wars in the 1990s.
"Serbia has done nothing to help its own heroes who are jailed in The Hague," said Radical Party official Nemanja Sarovic.
Even liberal Serbs have warned that Friday's ruling created a sense of injustice and could stir nationalist sentiments. Serbia's government has scaled down cooperation with the tribunal, while Serbia's President Tomislav Nikolic said the verdict was political.
The two generals received state honors and a hero's welcome in Croatian on Friday, with tens of thousands jubilant people gathering in the capital, Zagreb, to greet them.
The country is also marking a remembrance day this weekend in the eastern town of Vukovar, which was heavily bombed by the Serb-led military in at the start of the Serb-Croat war in 1991.
The war erupted when Croatia declared independence from Serb-led Yugoslavia triggering a rebellion by minority Serbs. About 10,000 people died in the conflict.