War crimes suspect drinks poison at court ruling

War crimes suspect drinks poison at court ruling

War criminal Slobodan Praljak has died after "drinking poison" as judges upheld his 20-year prison sentence at the Hague, according to Croatian state TV.

A wartime commander of Bosnian Croat forces said on Wednesday he "drank poison" seconds after United Nations appeals judges upheld his 20-year sentence for war crimes against Bosnian Muslims. During the hearing after he learned that his sentence would be upheld, he lifted a vial to his lips and drank the contents, announcing, "I have taken poison".

His lawyer also said Praljak had taken a substance, and the presiding judge ended proceedings. Police in The Hague declined comment on the case. If tests confirm the liquid was poison, officials will likely face questions about how Praljak managed to smuggle it into the courtroom.

Some of his convictions for actions in the later years of the conflict were overturned, but his sentence was not. 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.

Jadranko Prlic Bruno Stojic and Slobodan Praljak from left enter the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague Netherlands on Wednesday
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Praljak had received a confirmation of his 20-year sentence.

. An ambulance later left the building, but it could not be confirmed if Praljak was inside.

The groundbreaking ICTY is to finally close next month.

The dramatic incident happened during an appeal hearing at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

The Tribunal was set up in 1993, while fighting still raged in the former Yugoslavia, and has indicted 161 suspects for war crimes and convicted 90 individuals.