War criminal takes poison in court, dies
THE HAGUE - The Associated Press
Bosnian Croat war criminal Slobodan Praljak died in hospital on Nov. 29 after drinking poison in a dramatic courtroom scene after UN judges upheld his 20-year sentence, Croatia’s state-run news agency said.
The 72-year-old died in hospital, according to the HINA agency quoting a source close to Praljak, after he drank from a brown bottle at his appeal judgement at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.
UN judges were handing down judgement in the appeals case of six former Bosnian Croat political and military leaders, in the court’s final verdict for war crimes committed during the bloody 1990s break-up of Yugoslavia.
Seconds after his sentence was upheld, former military commander Praljak shouted out angrily: “Praljak is not a criminal. I reject your verdict.”
He then raised a small brown bottle to his lips, and drank it down in full view of the cameras filming the hearing.
The unprecedented scenes came just after the judges also upheld a 25-year prison term against Jadranko Prlic, the former prime minister of a breakaway Bosnian Croat statelet, and a 20-year term for its former defence minister Bruno Stojic.
But the hearing was then quickly suspended as Praljak’s lawyer shouted out: “My client says he has taken poison.”
Praljak was specifically charged with ordering the destruction of Mostar’s 16th-century bridge in November 1993, which judges in the first trial had said “caused disproportionate damage to the Muslim civilian population.”
A symbol of Bosnia’s devastation in the war, the Ottoman-era bridge was later rebuilt.