World News

Bosnian war criminal dies after swallowing poison in court

Posted November 29, 2017 6:32 a.m. EST
Updated November 29, 2017 10:53 a.m. EST

— A former Bosnian Croat general has died after swallowing poison moments after a judge at the Hague upheld his 20-year sentence for war crimes, Croatia's Prime Minister has confirmed.

Footage from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) showed 72-year-old Slobodan Praljak tilt his head back tilt his head back and drink from a small glass bottle as the presiding judge read out the verdict.

"Slobodan Praljak is not a war criminal. I am rejecting your verdict with contempt," Praljak said.

The judge was then heard immediately suspending proceedings and asking for the curtains to be drawn. An ambulance was at the building shortly and paramedics raced up to the courtroom, Reuters reported.

The courtroom is now being treated as a crime scene, an ICTY spokesperson told CNN.

Praljak, a former assistant defense minister of Croatia and at the same time a commander of the Croatian Defense Council, was appealing a jail term of 20 years in prison.

He was one of six former Bosnian Croat leaders found guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including the rape and murder of Bosnian Muslims, in 2013.

The offenses, which date to between 1992 and 1994, came as part of a wider conflict that followed the breakup of the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s.

The six were accused of trying to "ethnically cleanse" non-Croats from areas of the territory of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Bosnian Croat leadership, along with Croat leaders, wanted to make this territory part of a "Greater Croatia," the ICTY said when the case first went through the court.

Praljak played an important role in securing weapons and ammunition for the Croatian Defense Council army, according to the original indictment.

The nature of the substance ingested by Praljak on Wednesday was not immediately clear.

When asked about the footage, ICTY officials said that they were aware of the incident but had no further details.