Bosnian war criminal dies after drinking poison in court

Chris Pleasance and Sara Malm, Daily Mail,
Publish Date
Thursday, 30 November 2017, 6:24AM
The moment that Slobodan Praljack took the poison. (Photo/AP)
The moment that Slobodan Praljack took the poison. (Photo/AP)

A Bosnian-Croat war chief has died after downing poison during his war crimes trial at The Hague, the Croatian Prime Minister has confirmed.

Slobodan Praljak yelled, "I am not a war criminal!" and drank a dark liquid from a small bottle seconds after losing his appeal against a 20-year prison sentence at the International Criminal Tribunal, in the Netherlands, the Daily Mail reports

"I just drank poison," he added. "I am not a war criminal. I oppose this conviction."

Praljak, 72, is one of six Croatian politicians sentenced to jail for their involvement in a campaign to drive Muslims out of a would-be Bosnian Croat mini-state in Bosnia in the early 1990s.

His lawyer shouted out "my client has taken poison" before judge Carmel Agius suspended the hearing and the courtroom was closed.

Moments later ambulance crews arrived at the scene and a helicopter began hovering overhead.

Several emergency rescue workers rushed into the building carrying equipment in backpacks, while court officials called for calm.

Croatia's state-run TV service later said he died in hospital in the Netherlands, a statement which was later confirmed by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, who offered condolences to his family.

Plenkovic said at a press conference that "we have all, unfortunately, witnessed his act by which he took his own life".

"His act mostly speaks about a deep moral injustice towards six Croats from Bosnia and the Croatian people ... We voice dissatisfaction and regret about the verdict."

Judge Agius declared the courtroom to be a crime scene as he restarted the hearing, though gave no further details.

Dutch police also said an investigation had been launched, but would not disclose whether Praljak was alive or dead.

Praljak was sentenced to 20 years in jail along with his co-conspirators back in 2013, though it is not clear if he began serving that sentence before his appeal.

Bosnian Croats and Muslims were allies against the Serbs but fought each other for 11 months from 1993-1994.

Praljak, a Croatian politician and general in the the Croatian Army, also commanded Bosnian Croat forces known as the HVO from July to November 1993.

During this time, Praljak and his allies were trying to establish the "Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia" - an ethnically Croatian enclave, with the city of Mostar as it's "capital".

The Herzeg-Bosnia republic was declared by the Bosnian Croats in 1993, but as part of the peace agreement in 1994, it merged with the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina that we know today.

Mostar saw the worst of the Croat-Muslim clashes, with nearly 80 per cent of the city's east destroyed in the fighting.

Praljak was specifically charged with ordering the destruction of Mostar's 16th-century bridge in November 1993, which judges in the first trial had said "caused disproportionate damage to the Muslim civilian population".

- Daily Mail

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