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Yugoslavia war crimes convict 'takes poison' in court

Yugoslavia war crimes convict 'takes poison' in court”

Seconds after a United Nations judge confirmed his 20-year war crimes sentence on Wednesday, former Bosnian Croat military commander Slobodan Praljak shouted, "I am not a war criminal!" threw back his head, drank liquid from a small bottle and told the court he had taken poison.

He then raised a small brown bottle to his lips and tipped its contents into his mouth in full view of the public and cameras which were filming the appeal hearing for the six Bosnian Croat political and military leaders.

Agius had overturned some of Praljak's convictions but left his sentence unchanged.

Former war correspondent Martin Bell - who covered the Bosnian war and met Praljak on several occasions - told Sky News he was not surprised by his "theatrical" demise.

A spokesman for the tribunal, Nenad Golcevski, when asked by the Associated Press if he could confirm the death, said: "I have no information to share at this point".

The television quoted sources close to Praljak as saying he died in a hospital in The Hague.

Reuters reported a Croatian general telling local media he spoke to the wife of one of the defendants, who confirmed Praljak drank poison and was in a serious condition.

A total of 100,000 people died and 2.2 million were displaced in the three-year war.

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Croatian Prime Minister Plenkovic said that his country's leadership during the Bosnian war could "in no way be connected with the facts and interpretations" of Wednesday's judgment.

Earlier this month a different, high-profile Bosnian war criminal was brought before the International Court of Justice, where he was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity. There was an ambulance on the scene soon after.

The original conviction said that late-Croat President Franjo Tudjman was a key member of a plan to create a Croat mini-state in Bosnia.

Praljak was a former assistant minister of defense of Croatia, and later commander of the main staff of the former Croatian Defense Council, a militia operating in Bosnia.

The appeals hearing comes a week after the judges sentenced former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic to life in prison.

The ICTY charged Prlic and his co-defendants in 2004. It indicted 161 suspects and convicted 90 of them.

A 20-year term was upheld against former military leader Milivoj Petkovic, 68, while a 16-year sentence was confirmed against ex-military police chief Valentin Coric, 61, and and 10 years for former police official Berislav Pusic, 65. The six surrendered with Croatia under pressure to comply with the court in return for joining the European Union.



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