In this photo provided by the ICTY on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, Slobodan Praljak brings a bottle to his lips, during a Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands. (ICTY via AP)

War criminal drinks poison in court and dies

A convicted Croatian war criminal has died after swallowing what he said was poison

Croatian state TV reported Wednesday that a convicted Croat war criminal has died after swallowing what he said was poison seconds after a United Nations judge confirmed his 20-year sentence for involvement in crimes during the Bosnian war of the 1990s.

In a stunning end to the final case at the U.N.’s International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Slobodan Praljak yelled, “I am not a war criminal!” and appeared to drink from a small bottle.

Tribunal spokesman Nenad Golcevski, when asked by AP if he could confirm the death, said: “I have no information to share at this point.”

The courtroom where the dramatic scene unfolded was sealed off and Presiding Judge Carmel Agius said that it was now a “crime scene” so that Dutch police could investigate. Police in The Hague declined comment on the case.

Croatian state TV reported that President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic decided to cut short an official visit to Iceland and the government was holding an emergency session.

Praljak, 72, had been in the tribunal’s custody ahead of the hearing and it was not clear how he could have got access to poison or how he apparently managed to smuggle it into the tightly guarded courtroom.

Agius had overturned some of Praljak’s convictions but upheld others and left his sentence unchanged. Praljak, standing to listen to the judgment, then produced what appeared to be a small bottle, threw back his head and seemed to pour something into his mouth.

Agius shut down the hearing and cleared the courtroom.

The hearing later resumed and, ultimately, all six Croats charged in the case had their sentences, ranging from 25 to 10 years, confirmed. Judges overturned some of their 2013 convictions, but left many unchanged.

The other suspects showed no emotion as Agius reconfirmed their sentences for their involvement in a campaign to drive Muslims out of a would-be Bosnian Croat ministate in Bosnia in the early 1990s.

Dutch police, an ambulance and a fire truck 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 shortly after the incident. An ambulance later left the building, but it could not be confirmed if Praljak was inside.

Wednesday’s hearing was the final case at the groundbreaking tribunal before it closes its doors next month. The tribunal, which last week convicted former Bosnian Serb military chief Gen. 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 Croat mini-state in Bosnia, but that finding, which angered Croat leaders, was largely overshadowed by Praljak.

The original trial began in April 2006 and provided a reminder of the complex web of ethnic tensions that fueled fighting in Bosnia and continues to create frictions in the country even today.

Mike Corder, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Burns Lake breaks temperature records amid cold snap

It’s no surprise that the ongoing blast of winter broke a handful… Continue reading

Disrespectful that Horgan won’t meet during northern B.C. tour: hereditary chief

Na’moks said he was frustrated Horgan didn’t meet with the chiefs

BC Green Party leader visits Wet’suwet’en camps at heart of pipeline conflict

Adam Olsen calls for better relationship between Canada and First Nations

Coastal GasLink repeats desire for meeting with hereditary chiefs

Coastal GasLink says they’re ready to meet with the hereditary chiefs at their convenience

Ranning Charlie acquitted of all charges

The charges included sexual assault

Meng extradition case back in court for second day on double criminality test

Meng is accused of lying to HSBC about Huawei’s relationship with an Iran-based subsidiary

Canada to ratify new NAFTA next week following U.S. Senate approval: Trudeau

Trudeau says millions of Canadians depend on stable, reliable trade

Skier dies at Fernie Alpine Resort

It’s the second person to die in a tree well at a ski resort in B.C. in the past week.

Warm ocean ‘blob’ could be behind mass starvation of North Pacific seabirds: study

Unprecedented death toll raises red flag for North American marine ecosystems

VIDEO: Vancouver Island mom shares ‘insane’ experience of viral dinosaur video

Tabitha Cooper filmed her costumed sons meeting their grandma at the Victoria International Airport

Vancouver Island home to one of Canada’s largest private skateboard collections

Eric Pinto owns hundreds of boards, spanning multiple decades

ICBC to bring in ranking system for collision, glass repair shops

Change comes after the much-maligned auto insurer has faced criticism for sky-high premiums

Most Read