War criminal 'drinks poison' in court as 20-year sentence is upheld

The Hague: ?A wartime commander of Bosnian Croat forces died on Wednesday when he drank poison?seconds after United Nations?appeals judges upheld his 20-year sentence for war crimes against Bosnian Muslims.

Slobodan?Praljak, 72, tilted back his head and took a swing from a glass bottle as a judge read out a verdict in his case for crimes committed in the city of Mostar during the Bosnian war in 1992-95.

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With his 20-year sentence upheld, a war criminal drinks poison

A Bosnian Croat wartime commander has died after swallowing poison in a UN war crimes courtroom after losing an appeal against a 20-year prison sentence.

"Slobodan Praljak is not a war criminal, I am rejecting the court ruling,"?he said as he put the flask to his lips.

"Stop please, sit down please," the judge said.

"I have taken poison," Praljak said.

Commotion ensued as staff ran to treat Praljak and the presiding judge suspended the court and ordered curtains to be drawn.


Praljak sat back down and slumped in his chair, a lawyer who was in the courtroom at the time said.

An ambulance was at the building and paramedics went to the courtroom.

A court guard said Praljak was still "being treated" more than hour after he said he drank poison.

Croatian General Marinko Kresic told Croatian state TV he had spoken to the wife of another defendant, Milivoje Petkovic, who was in The Hague. "She confirmed that he drank the poison and that he is in a very grave health condition," he said.

Multiple media outlets, including Croatian state television, later?reported that?Praljak?had died in hospital.

The court initially said it would resume reading the verdict, which is also handling cases against five other defendants, including Milivoje Petkovic. However the room was later sealed off as a crime scene.

The dramatic events came in the final minutes of the court's last verdict before closing down. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), established by the United Nations in 1993, shuts its doors next month when its mandate expires.

The court's lead suspect, former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, died of a heart attack in March 2006 months before a ruling in his genocide case.

Two defendants awaiting trial took their own lives?by hanging themselves in their UN?cells, according to court documents. Slavko Dokmanovic died in 1998 and Milan Babic was found dead in his locked cell in 2006.

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Reuters, Fairfax Media

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