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Slobodan Praljak reported dead after drinking poison

Croatian TV reports death of wartime Bosnian Croat commander Slobodan Praljak after dramatic scene at war crimes court.

Slobodan Pralja

A commander of Bosnian Croat forces during the Bosnian War has reportedly died from drinking what he claimed to be poison at the war crimes court for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

The death on Wednesday was reported by Croatian state TV.

Upon hearing that his 20-year prison sentence had been upheld, General Slobodan Praljak shouted at the presiding judge: "I, Slobodan Praljak, reject the verdict. I'm not a war criminal."

Then he drank from a small bottle or flask and declared: "What I am drinking now is poison."

The judge suspended the hearing and called for a doctor.

The incident happened when the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was handing down its last judgment in an appeal by six Bosnian Croat political and military leaders, who were convicted in 2013 of persecuting, expelling and murdering Bosnian Muslims during the 1992-1995 war.

Speaking from Sarajevo in Bosnia, Denis Dzidic, deputy editor for the Detecor project, said policemen and an ambulance were ordered to the tribunal building.

"Slobodan Praljak had his first instance verdict confirmed, in which he was sentenced to 20 years in prison," Dzidic said.

"He said that he did not accept the verdict, that he was not a war criminal and then drank the substance.

"The judge then paused the proceedings and ordered the glass [from which Praljak drank] not be taken from court.

"Now we are waiting to see what will happen. The verdict was mid-way and the first three defendants had their sentences confirmed; 25, 20, and, for Praljak also, 20 years in prison."

Wednesday's hearing was the final case to be completed at the ICTY before it closes its doors next month.

The tribunal, which last week convicted former Bosnian Serb military chief General Ratko Mladic of genocide and other crimes, was set up in 1993 while fighting still raged in the former Yugoslavia.

It indicted 161 suspects and convicted 90 of them.

The original conviction said that Franjo Tudjman, the late Croatian president, was a key member of a plan to create a Croat mini-state in Bosnia.

war-crimes


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