A Bosnian Croat leader convicted of war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia died after drinking poison as he was declared guilty in court.
After hearing his 20-year jail sentence, Slobodan Praljak, 72, yelled that he wasn’t a war criminal and drank something from a plastic cup. His lawyer then told the Hague, Netherlands-based tribunal that the defendant had ingested poison. Praljak was taken to a hospital, where he later died, according to the Croatian state news service HINA.
“I reject your verdict,” Praljak shouted before he drank the liquid during a live broadcast of his sentencing. Praljak in civilian life was an electrical engineer before graduating from the Film Academy in Zagreb and working as a director in theater and television.
Praljak and five other Bosnian Croats were sentenced to terms of 10 to 25 years in jail for crimes committed when they were leaders of the self-styled Bosnian Croat state in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the war in the 1990s. More than 100,000 people died in the conflict among the three ethnic groups in the former Yugoslav republic, which also included Bosnian Serbs. A U.S.-brokered peace agreement stopped the fighting in 1995.
In a ruling on appeals, the court upheld the sentences from the first-instance verdict in 2013. The court found the convicted were guilty of murder of civilians, of “terrorizing” the Bosnian Muslim population by shelling eastern Mostar, and of forcibly relocating civilians, Judge Camel Agius said. The convicted were acting as part of a “joint criminal enterprise,” that also included the then leaders of the Republic of Croatia, the court said.
In Croatia, lawmakers reacted with apparent shock when the parliament session was interrupted by the announcement of the verdict.
“The verdict is unjust, it is not based on historical facts, and we are rejecting it,” Gordan Jandrokovic, the assembly’s speaker, told reporters in Zagreb.
Dutch authorities began an investigation into the incident, HINA said.
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