Croatian war criminal dies after ‘drinking poison’ in court
A former Bosnian Croatian war lord has died in hospital today "after drinking poison" moments after his appeal against a 20-year sentence was turned down, according to Croatian state TV.
Slobodan Praljak drank from a small bottle and yelled "I am not a war criminal!" during the UN verdict at The Hague for his involvement in a campaign to drive Muslims out of Bosnia in the 1990s.
The 72-year-old yelled "I am not a war criminal!" and appeared to drink from a small bottle, seconds after judges reconfirmed his 20-year prison sentence for his involvement in a campaign to drive Muslims out of Bosnia in the early 1990s.
Praljak was convicted for his role to create an ethnically pure Croatian state during the Bosnian war in the 1990s which sparked by the break-up of Yugoslavia.
It saw a total of 100,000 people killed and 2.2 million were displaced in the three-year war.
Dramatic courtroom footage earlier today showed Praljak standing up before tipping his head back and swallowing a glass of something as he told the judge: "I have taken poison. I am not a war criminal. I oppose this conviction."
Presiding Judge Carmel Agius was forced to suspend the hearing with emergency services entering the courtroom.
Dutch police have declared the courtroom "a crime scene".
Earlier, presiding Judge Carmel Agius immediately suspended the hearing and called for a doctor.
In the clip, the judge said: "Please, the curtains. Don't take away the glass that he used when he drank something."
Before the curtains were lowered, the courtroom could be seen in a state of confusion.
Praljak was one of six former Bosnian Croat political and military leaders who had appealed against their convictions in 2013 for crimes in East Mostar.
Praljak was charged with ordering the destruction of Mostar's 16th-century bridge in November 1993, which judges said "caused disproportionate damage to the Muslim civilian population".
He reportedly participated in the establishment and expansion of concentration camps and other detention centres.
Praljak was also said to have inflicted cruel treatment on Bosnian Muslims, by arranging for their expulsion and forced transfer and by submitting those imprisoned to forced labour.
Three had their sentences confirmed, although some of their convictions were overturned by appeal judges.
The judge today had overturned some of Praljak's convictions but left his sentence unchanged.
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 appeals judges upheld a key finding that late Croat President Franjo Tudjman was a member of a plan to create a Croatian mini-state in Bosnia.
Two other suspects had also had their sentences upheld before the hearing was suspended.