War crimes defendant 'drank' poison in court

War crimes defendant 'drank' poison in court

Wartime commander of Bosnian Croat forces, Slobodan Praljak, 72, sipped a toxic liquid during a hearing at the United Nations war crimes tribunal on Wednesday after his 20-year prison sentence was upheld, his lawyer said.

After drinking Praljak told the court: "I am not a war criminal, I oppose this conviction".

Court proceedings into former Yugoslavian war crimes was suspended after a defendant drank from a small bottle and claimed he had poisoned himself.

The judge presiding over the appeal quickly shut down the hearing, which took place at The Hague in the Netherlands, as the area was treated as a crime scene. As he drank from the bottle, Praljak yelled "I am not a war criminal" moments after the court confirmed his 20-year sentence.

According to Croatian State Agency HINA, a helicopter has been sent for Praljak.

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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.

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

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.

Praljak's case was one of the last to be decided at a tribunal for ethnic war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, the worst outbreak of violence in Europe since the end of World War II.

The groundbreaking ICTY is to finally close next month.

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