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.

Just Posted

Juxtaposition key to art in The Lines Between at Gage in Oak Bay

The artist will be on hand for the opening reception on Sunday, April 29

FILM REVIEW: Violent vigilanteism helps cast disquieting spell

Robert Moyes offers his take on Joaquin Phoenix and You Were Never Here

Tickets go quickly for Tom Cochrane show at Elements Casino

Multi Juno Award-winner rejoins Red Rider bandmates for grand opening concert

Rockin’ steady with Phonosonics

Victoria roots reggae band looks to attract wider audience with appearance on Rise Up TV show

Sooke man pursues music for a lifetime

Al Pease has been playing music for over 65 years

Shania Twain visits Canadian Armed Forces base in B.C.

Canadian country icon thanks members of CFB Esquimalt for their service

Royal baby: It’s a boy for Kate and William

The Duchess of Cambridge has given birth to her third child, a boy weighing 8 pounds, 7 ounces.

Ballet Victoria soirée fundraiser a prelude to final show of season

Company winds up its 15th season in the city with Peter Pan next month

Dinosaurs taking centre stage at National Geographic event

NatGeo Live series finale May 2 at the Royal features renowned paleontologist

Celebrate Earth Day with guided walks through Beacon Hill Park

Local naturalists explore Garry oak ecosystem on Camas Day

Shania Twain set to visit CFB Esquimalt

Country music star is meeting members of the Canadian Armed Forces

Blue Bridge Theatre kicks off it 10th season with fun Russian farce

Unique spin on Chekov classic promises surprises

Cochrane alters lyrics to honour Humboldt Broncos

Rock singer, performing at the Elements Casino grand reopening May 5, changes up ‘Big League’

Who’s afraid of Friday the 13th?

Is friggatriskaidekaphobia harmless fun, or should we be proceeding with caution today?

Most Read