War crimes suspect takes poison in court

War crimes suspect takes poison in court
November 29 18:13 2017 Print This Article

A war crimes appeal hearing in The Hague was cut short dramatically when one defendant drank what he said was poison upon hearing the verdict, BBC reports.

Slobodan Praljak was one of six former Bosnian Croat political and military leaders up before the court.

He was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment in 2013 for crimes in the city of Mostar.

On hearing that his sentence had been upheld, he told the judge, “I have taken poison”.

The six were appearing in court for the final appeals judgment to be handed down by the Yugoslav Tribunal.

One-time allies against the Bosnian Serbs, Bosnian Croats and Muslims fought each other during the civil war from 1993-94, with Mostar seeing some of the fiercest fighting.

Praljak stood and raised his hand to his mouth, tipped his head back and appeared to swallow a glass of liquid.

Presiding judge Carmel Agius immediately suspended the proceedings and an ambulance was called.

“Okay,” the judge said. “We suspend the… We suspend… Please, the curtains. Don’t take away the glass that he used when he drank something.”

Before the curtains were lowered, the courtroom could be seen in a state of confusion.

An ambulance could later be seen arriving outside the tribunal while a helicopter hovered above the scene.

Several emergency rescue workers also rushed into the building carrying equipment in backpacks.

Praljak, the former commander of the main staff of the Bosnian Croat defence forces (HVO), was jailed for crimes against humanity.

Informed that soldiers were rounding up Muslims in Prozor in the summer of 1993, he had failed to make any serious efforts to stop it, the UN war crimes tribunal found.

He had also failed to act on information that murders were being planned, as well as attacks on members of international organisations and property in East Mostar such as mosques.

Those appearing with him included Jadranko Prlic, the former prime minister of the Bosnian Croats’ breakaway statelet.