Report: War Criminal Who Drank 'Poison' in Court Has Died

Lawyer for Bosnian Croat Slobodan Praljak says his client sucked down toxic liquid
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 29, 2017 6:18 AM CST
Updated Nov 29, 2017 9:50 AM CST
War Criminal Drinks 'Poison,' Sends Court Into Chaos
In this photo provided by the ICTY on Wednesday, Slobodan Praljak brings a drinking vessel to his lips during a war crimes tribunal hearing at the Hague in the Netherlands.   (ICTY via AP)

Croatian state TV has reported that war criminal Slobodan Praljak, who stunned a UN war crimes tribunal Wednesday by drinking what he claimed was poison during proceedings, has died, per the AP. The BBC and Guardian had earlier reported that the 72-year-old Bosnian Croat—an ex-military commander convicted four years ago of persecuting and killing Muslims during the Bosnian war in the mid-'90s—disrupted his appeals hearing after he heard his 20-year sentence in prison would be upheld. "I am not a war criminal," he reportedly yelled upon hearing the news, just after he got up from his seat and appeared to drink something from a tiny glass or bottle. His attorney then cried out: "My client says he has taken poison."

The BBC reports a "state of confusion" in the courtroom followed, as the judge immediately halted proceedings and medical help was called for; the AP notes cops, emergency services personnel, and what looked to be firefighters with oxygen tanks were all on the scene. The New York Times cites an anonymous tribunal official who said Praljak's body was taken off court premises after he was pronounced dead; Croatian state TV said he died at a hospital in the Hague, per un-IDed sources said to be close to Praljak. The UN tribunal is the same one that last week sentenced Ratko Mladic to life in prison for his own atrocities during the war. Praljak, one of six former Bosnian politicians or military bigwigs set to hear their appeal verdicts Wednesday, was accused of crimes that included destroying a centuries-old Ottoman bridge in Mostar, per the Independent. (Mladic had vowed to kill himself; here's why he didn't.)

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