March 24, 2018

Bosnian Croat ex-general dies after gulping poison while hearing verdict

03 December 2017, 12:48 | Simon Arnold

Yugoslavian war criminal 'takes poison' to end hearing at UN court

Bosnian Croat war criminal 'drinks poison' at Hague hearing

Slobodan Praljak drank from a small bottle and yelled "I am not a war criminal!" during the United Nations verdict at The Hague for his involvement in a campaign to drive Muslims out of Bosnia in the 1990s.

The chamber rejected the appeal lodged by the former Croat leaders in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and confirmed the original finding that a joint criminal enterprise was established by Franjo Tudjman and other political leaders with the aim of setting up an entity "in accordance with the old borders of Croatia", Tanjug is reporting today.

A court guard told reporters in the lobby of the tribunal that Praljak is alive and "receiving medical attention". Praljak, who remains standing, begins to shout: "Judges, Slobodan Praljak is not a criminal".

Dutch police, an ambulance and a firetruck quickly arrived outside the court's headquarters and emergency service workers, some of them wearing helmets and with oxygen tanks on their backs, went into the court.

Wednesday's hearing is the final case to be completed at the groundbreaking tribunal before it closes its doors next month.

Praljak, 72, was jailed in 2013 for his role in war crimes including a massacre of civilians in central Bosnia and the deliberate destruction of Mostar bridge during the siege of the city by Croatian forces in 1993.

Sources close to Praljak as saying he died in a hospital in The Hague.

Slobodan Praljak, a former military commander convicted of persecuting and murdering Muslims during the Bosnian War in the '90s, died a few hours drinking the poison, according to Croatian prime minister Andrej Plenković.

Reuters reported a Croatian general telling local media he spoke to the wife of one of the defendants, who confirmed Praljak drank poison and was in a serious condition.

In statements sure to anger Zagreb, the judges also upheld the original finding that they had been part of a joint criminal enterprise whose "ultimate objective was shared" by late Croatian president Franjo Tudjman, and other leaders.

Bosnian Serb military chief Gen. Ratko Mladic was sentenced for life in prison for atrocities during Bosnia's 1992-1995 war. Of the 161 individuals indicted by the ICTY, the body created specifically to prosecute wartime crimes, 94 are ethnic Serbs, compared to 29 Croats, nine Albanians and nine Bosniaks.

Two other suspects had also had their sentences upheld before the hearing was suspended.

His judgement had also descended into confusion when he accused the judges of lying and had to be dragged away into a nearby room.

The ICTY charged Prlic and his co-defendants in 2004.

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