Bosnian Croat War Criminal Takes Poison

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A convicted Bosnian Croat war criminal died Nov. 29 after taking poison in a United Nations courtroom.

Slobodan Praljak drank the poison shortly after the judge at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia confirmed his 20-year prison sentence for war crimes, the Guardian reported.

Praljak, a former general, was accused of destroying a 16th-century bridge in the city of Mostar, Bosnia. The judge in his case ruled that this "caused disproportionate damage to the Muslim civilian population."

Praljak was previously convicted of the charges but challenged them in an appeal.

"I am not a war criminal," he shouted as the decision was announced, according to Daily Mail.

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"I just drank poison," Praljak added. "I am not a war criminal. I oppose this conviction."

Praljak's lawyer told the court: "My client has taken poison." The presiding judge suspended the hearing and medical personnel were sent for to treat Praljak.

The 72-year-old reportedly died at a clinic in The Hague.

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic criticized the court's ruling and addressed Praljak's death.

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"His act, which we regrettably saw today, mostly speaks about a deep moral injustice towards six Croats from Bosnia and the Croatian people ... We voice dissatisfaction and regret about the verdict," said Plenkovic.

Toma Fila, a Serbian lawyer who has represented defendants at the tribunal, stated that it would have been easy to bring poison into the courtroom. He said that security "is just like at an airport." He explained that security staff searched metal items, but that "pills and small quantities of liquids" were allowed to pass.

It remains unclear who supplied Praljak with the poison. An ICTY spokesperson told CNN that the courtroom is being treated as a crime scene.

The judges in Praljak's appeal found that the bridge he ordered to be attacked was a legitimate military target. However, they emphasized that Praljak and the five others on trial with him were guilty of trying to remove Bosnian Muslims and therefore "remained convicted of numerous and very serious crimes," according to the Guardian.

CNN noted that they were also convicted of raping and murdering Bosnian Muslims. Praljak was found guilty of arranging for weapons and ammunition to be supplied to the Croat forces.

In the course of the 1992 to 1995 war in Bosnia, 100,000 people lost their lives and 2.2 million were displaced. The ICTY has tried 161 people on charges related to crimes allegedly committed during the war. It is due to close down on Dec. 31, 2017.

Sources: Daily Mail, The Guardian, CNN / Featured Image: Julian Nitzsche/Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: ICTY Staff/icty.org via Wikimedia Commons, ICTY Staff/un.org via Wikimedia Commons

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