United Nations war crimes defendant claims to have taken poison in court

Yugoslavian war criminal 'takes poison' to end hearing at UN court

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.

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

Slobodan Praljak appearing to drink from a vial in court in The Hague.

A lawyer for Praljak, a commander of ethnic Croatians during the 1990s war in Bosnia, said that his client had poisoned himself and emergency services rushed to the scene.

He also told the judge, as cited by the BBC: "I have taken poison".

"I am not a war criminal!".

Slobodan Praljak brings a bottle to his lips, during a Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.

.

Judge Carmel Agius, who had urged the defendant to sit down, put a halt to the hearing as calls were made for an ambulance. Sometime later, Praljak alerts the courtroom that what he drank was poison.

Yugoslavian war criminal 'takes poison' to end hearing at UN court

Praljak was charged with ordering the destruction of Mostar's 16th-century bridge in November 1993, which judges said "caused disproportionate damage to the Muslim civilian population".

The six leaders were attending the final appeals judgment to be handed out by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which will close when its mandate expires at the end of this year.

Although they were allies against the Bosnian Serbs in the Bosnian War of 1992 - 1995, Bosnian Croats and Muslims were also in conflict for nearly a year, with Mostar seeing some of the bloodiest conflict as the country of Yugoslavia messily divided.

Praljak and his co-conspirators all had their sentences upheld on Wednesday, despite some of the lesser convictions being overturned.

Former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic was found guilty of genocide by the United Nations war crimes tribunal last week and sentenced to life in prison for his role in massacres and ethnic cleansing during Bosnia's war.

Two other suspects had also had their sentences upheld before the hearing was suspended.

Plenković has argued that the Croat leadership, and former President Franjo Tudjman in particular, did not participate in a plan to carve out a Croat state in Bosnia.

It has indicted 161 suspects and convicted 90 of them.

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