A deadly chemical was in the container from which a Croat war criminal drank shortly before dying, a Dutch prosecutor said Thursday, as an independent investigation into the dramatic death of Slobodan Praljak continued. "There was a preliminary test of the substance in the container and all I can say for now is that there was a chemical substance in that container that can cause death," Prosecutor Marilyn Fikenscher told the AP in a telephone interview. She declined to elaborate on the exact nature of the substance. Praljak, 72, stunned the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia on Wednesday when he gulped down liquid from a small bottle seconds after a UN appeals judge had confirmed a 20-year sentence against him.
He was rushed to a Hague hospital but died there, tribunal spokesman Nenad Golcevski said. Praljak's lawyer, Nina Pinter, was quoted by Croatia's HINA news agency Thursday as saying "it has never occurred to me that he could do something like that." Pinter described Praljak as "an honorable man who could not live with the war crimes conviction and leave that courtroom handcuffed." Fikenscher said that an autopsy, including toxicological tests, will be carried out soon on Praljak's body, and that the Dutch investigation will look into how Praljak managed to take the small bottle of poison into the tribunal's tightly guarded courtroom.