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War Criminal Dies After Drinking Poison In Court To Escape Sentencing

A wartime commander of Bosnian Croat forces, Slobodan Praljak, is seen during a hearing at the U.N. war crimes tribunal in the Hague, Netherlands, November 29, 2017. ICTY via REUTERS TVA wartime commander of Bosnian Croat forces, Slobodan Praljak, is seen during a hearing at the U.N. war crimes tribunal in the Hague, Netherlands, November 29, 2017. ICTY via REUTERS TV

A former Bosnian Croat military leader convicted of war crimes died Wednesday from drinking poison in a UN court after the tribunal upheld his sentence.

Slobodan Praljak drank the poison just after presiding judge Carmel Agius overturned some of Praljiak’s charges, but upheld others connecting him to a mid 1990s campaign of genocide against Bosnian Muslims and Croatian civilians, according to the Associated Press. Agius upheld Praljak’s 20-year jail sentence, at which Praljak exclaimed “I am not a war criminal” and drank from a small bottle that he claimed was poison.

“I just drank poison,” Praljak said. “I am not a war criminal. I oppose this conviction.”

Agius halted the hearing immediately afterward. Initial reports did not confirm whether Praljak had died or truly poisoned himself, but Croatia’s state TV later confirmed Praljak’s death, according to AP. Praljak’s case was the last of many to be heard in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

The UN created the tribunal in 1993, while war still ravaged Yugoslavia, and has convicted 90 of the 161 suspects indicted on charges of war crimes, including former Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic, known as the Butcher of Bosnia. The tribunal sentenced Mladic to life in prison.

Praljiak’s original trial, leading to his initial conviction, began in 2006. The tribunal upheld his sentence, as well as the 25-year sentence of Jadranko Prlic, who was a former prime minister of a Croat entity within Bosnia, and the sentence of another suspect, before Praljak poisoned himself. Praljak was 72 years old.

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